I recently met Sarah Browning York at a local freelancer meetup and, as you do, we got chatting. Turns out, we had lots in common as Sarah also works in the for-purpose communications space (I love her description of herself as a "kindness cheerleader" and her mission to help clients achieve their vision of kindness in the world) so we had lots in common. Today, she's been kind enough to share some insights into building a successful fundraising communications strategy. Over to you, Sarah...
What is successful fundraising communications strategy? Well successful fundraising is about telling emotional stories that donors and potential donors connect with. That they want to be part of. And that they want to share with others.
All charities, whatever their size, saw their funding affected by the pandemic. Many are having to make difficult decisions as a result. They are reducing services, cutting staff numbers and in some cases closing completely.
All at a time when demand for their services is increasing. People need support and they need organisations they can turn to.
So how can you use an effective fundraising communications strategy to support your fundraising efforts in difficult times? Looking at how your organisation communicates with a whole range of stakeholders, both internal and external, is a good place to start.
1. How will communicating well contribute to your overall fundraising goals?
A clearly told emotive story will engage funders and donors with who you are and what you want to do to make a positive difference in the world. You can demonstrate what you need to do right now and longer term. A compelling story should lead to investment emotionally and financially, which will strengthen your fundraising communications strategy .
Remember to tell your story internally as well as externally. Your employees and volunteers want to know that they are part of that story, contributing to that positive difference.
2. Who has a natural affinity for your work and is most likely to support it?
You need to get to know your donors and potential donors, what motivates and interests them, what do they already know and so on. Work out what new funders and donors don’t know yet about your story.
Effective communication will support your fundraising and help you connect with their immediate concerns for crisis funding. You can also build genuine long-lasting relationships with them.
The same goes for your volunteers and employees.
3. What are your core messages?
Look for individual real life stories that illustrate those messages. Many organisations are dealing with complex issues. But if you can find a way to make those issues easier to understand, funders and donors will connect with you more easily.
Simplifying your message is not the same as dumbing down. You are aiming to take your audience with you on a journey through your area of expertise. Frame your organisation as part of the solution and recovery from the pandemic.
People want to feel good about what they are doing, so give them a role to play in that solution. Use your story to involve them in making something happen.
4. When and how do donors and potential donors want to hear from you?
This isn’t just about timetables and deadlines for applications. It is also about the times when people will be most open to what you have to say. Think about when and where they will be most receptive to your messages. For example the time of day when they are scrolling on social media in search of something to make them smile.
Even if you thought you understood their requirements previously, things may have changed during the pandemic. So make sure you are up to date.
5. How can you communicate in a way that builds trust?
“People will only fund you if they trust you – and they will only trust you if they know you.”
Judith Davey, Chief Executive, The Advocacy Project
Effective communication should be a core part of your strategy to build trust and raise that much-needed funding. Building trust is all about relationships and having a consistent story. That means communicating regularly over time and not just when you want to ask for donations.
How are you communicating your story for fundraising at your organisation?
Sarah is an independent communicator and kindness cheerleader. She works with individuals and organisations to achieve their organisational goals, changing attitudes and behaviors to make the world a kinder place. Visit www.browningyork.com to find out more. Find blogs and stories about inspiring kindness at www.timeforkindness.co.uk