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Strong Donor Communication Starts with Knowing What Matters to Them

Fundraisers face two big questions daily: whom do we contact, and what should we say? Far too often, nonprofits struggle with both queries. A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy criticizes nonprofits for relying on “vanity metrics” in communications to their donor community, a direct result of this struggle. DonorSearch solves this problem by determining what drives engagement to a nonprofit—unlocking answers to not only who you should be talking to, but what your honest outreach should focus on.

First, let’s consider today’s messaging problem. Robin Pierro, director of communications and marketing for the Fund for Global Human Rights, writes, “In the fierce competition for funding, nonprofits often rely on vanity metrics to sell their effectiveness—numbers that sound impressive and convince donors to give, but don’t always reflect the real value of a charity’s work.” Vanity metrics, according to Pierro, tend to tout the total number of people helped in a given period, but don’t provide additional data. She also believes donor communications tend to claim a major fix can be achieved via a modest donation, which “obscures the reality” of what true change requires.

Pierro goes on to describe the importance of both honest and effective communication with a nonprofit’s community: “Donors hold the power to make or break these efforts with their support. That’s why the narrative nonprofits create about what makes for effective charity matters.” DonorSearch absolutely agrees with her. Achieving success with meaningful communications is most often a matter of unlocking the data you already have with your community. This is what we do daily with nonprofits of all types across the country.

Returning to the problem, nonprofits try to share the biggest, boldest metrics they can because as Pierro points out, they are locked in an endless battle for attention with not only other nonprofits, but also corporations pushing a positive mission statement. But bigger isn’t always better. The best approach is to determine what really matters to your community. If the metrics you communicate to potential donors confuse—or bore them—you’ll have slim chances at engaging them further.

In fact, bad communications may even cause a prospective donor’s engagement level to plummet—the exact opposite of what you seek to do. On the other hand, when your outreach is based on solid data from DonorSearch, you needn’t take shots in the dark. Rather, you’re presenting impactful information without any need to rely on vanity metrics lacking meaning.

Further, the DonorSearch difference features advanced AI models to determine what factors will move the engagement needle. Senior Vice President Nathan Chappell explains, “Legacy analyses of a nonprofit’s community of donors and prospects is oversimplified, usually only including a few variables to explain engagement. Using AI and algorithms that are constantly refined via machine learning, DonorSearch can incorporate more than 90 factors into the equation. Typically, this analysis creates an extremely clear picture of what aspects of a nonprofit and its mission are most engaging to the community.”

To Chappell’s point, when info locked away in a nonprofit’s system is brought out, along with big data from the overall community, clarity emerges. Consider a food bank with the worthy mission of feeding the hungry. Making a natural assumption that the total number of meals it provides yearly is its most vital info, it leads all communication with this impressive-sounding total.

But its approach would likely change if it knew donors found their work feeding children to be most engaging. Based on this insight, future communications would focus on providing details of its school breakfast program to food-insecure kids. It would also pivot from pure performance metrics and feature interviews with school administrators and health specialists for context on how the group supports disadvantaged children.

The data driving such a change is powerful and actionable. It’s also what we provide via cutting-edge AI tech. As DonorSearch Executive Vice President and Co-Owner Sarah TeDesco explains, “Our clients often come to us with the goal of finding the right prospects to talk to. They are sometimes surprised to learn we can also help them figure out what to discuss in their communications by discerning what engages their community. When your organization knows who to speak to and what they are interested in, every communication can be more meaningful and more impactful.”

This powerful data also enables other forms of communication to drive engagement, like personalization. Unfortunately, in the race to brag about lofty metrics, organizations tend to lump everyone together, just like the food bank that provides info on the total number of meals served. This is the opposite of what most consumers expect. Instead, they desire personalization, and effective data usage supports it. Donors are, after all, consumers. They expect the type of personalization they already get from the for-profit economy. Why not personalize communications, like telling them how many meals they personally funded instead of what the organization did on an overall basis?

Daily, nonprofit leaders and fundraisers do their best work to communicate their organization’s mission, leading to more future good works. Their efforts can be more effective when based on strong outreach aimed at engaged donors and prospects. DonorSearch unlocks the data you already have to best connect with your audience. Contact DonorSearch for a demo today. And if you’re an experienced non-profit professional interested in helping nonprofits build future successes, please consider a career with DonorSearch.

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