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8 Little Secrets to Succeeding in the Giving Challenge

February 18, 2014

secretI hope you’re all ears. Because what I am about to tell you can drastically change your level of success in the 2014 Giving Challenge. Really, it can change the success you experience in any communications or fundraising campaign.

When Ann Christiano, the Frank Karel Endowed Chair in Public Interest Communications in the College of Journalism at the University of Florida, recently spoke at the Florida Philanthropic Network‘s statewide summit, I knew she was a genius. Everything she said made perfect sense, whether you are trying to persuade people to make donations, share a message, or talk to their Senator. And even more golden, her rules of social change communications will help your organization stand out from the masses when emails are flying in the weeks just before the 2014 Giving Challenge and during the 24-hour online fundraising campaign itself on May 6 and 7.

Here are her eight imperatives:

  • Stop saying what your organization does and focus on why you do it.
    Helping your audience understand why the need is there is more compelling than sharing a list of everything your organization is doing.

  • Become strategically empathetic with your audience.
    Empathy allows you to feel what others are feeling. Have you considered that what your donors care about hearing or reading is what you should care about communicating, not the other way around?

  • Communicate in pictures.
    An authentic picture of someone being served by your organization–even if it’s not a puppy, kitten or baby–can seal the deal.  Enough said.

  • Use the full palette of emotions to connect with your stakeholders.
    Have you considered the power of humor and joy versus guilt or fear?  The power of emotion can be harvested in a number of ways. And if you aren’t ready to experiment with new emotional flavors in your nonprofit’s communications, at least make sure that you have some emotional appeal in your writing.

  • Stop hinting. Just tell people what you want them to do.
    Seriously, we all receive a lot of messages every day–every hour even. Don’t leave people guessing what it is you want them to do. Do you want a $25 gift? Do you want them to click on your profile in The Giving Partner? Do you want them to hit “forward” on your email or post their support on Facebook? People who have to guess what you want them to do have generally moved on to something else before they even approach the action you’re hoping they will take. Make sure your calls to action are visible and simple.

  • Tell stories like you mean it!
    Know your organization’s stories. How you came to be, your victories, what you have learned in defeat, your challenges, and where you are going are all important—not necessarily in the same communication and not necessarily in that order.

  • Remember that each person you communicate with is part of a larger network.
    Oh yes. Ask the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation or Community Youth Development how important this concept was for them during The Giving Challenge last year. The power of the network is what it’s all about if you want to extend your reach to new supporters.

  • Don’t worry about whether an audience is as passionate about an issue as you are.
    We can spend all day trying to convince people to be passionate about our cause above all others. But it’s surprising what people will do on our behalf even if the issue or cause isn’t number one in their minds and hearts. Small actions add up, and people can do a lot of good without being as committed to the cause as you are.

For those of us who fear the flood of emails local donors are destined to receive during The Giving Challenge, ask yourself how your messaging can stand apart. What moves people to give? To click? To share?  Start your communications strategy now, and remember that it will enhance your organization’s overall effectiveness, not just its approach to the big days on May 6 and 7.

Special thanks to Ann Christiano for making us wiser!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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One Response to “8 Little Secrets to Succeeding in the Giving Challenge”

  1. Lisa Ramirez Says:

    Great and useful tips! Thank you so much!


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