Acquiring, Engaging and Retaining donors a session facilitated by Anoj Viswanathan from Milaap.

The session was focused on individual giving and not institutional or CSR giving

Telling the story 

  1. Know the difference between information and communication - information is just facts - communication is story telling. Both are important but to get someone interested in what you are doing its the story
  2. Donors give to a) stories- about individuals b) people - they do not give to "causes" c ) brands - organisations that they are "visible" to them.
  3. What is a "story" ? Its a simple non technical, non jargonised description of someone's life , an incident, an instance- the key is keeping it really simple - a young child should be able to understand - for e.g Rupa has an illness and she cant walk because of the same. If you can help her with crutches and medicines, she will be able to is a much better way of sharing a story rather than saying - Rupa has an auto immune condition that has rendered her to be paraplegic. She needs calipers to be able to walk again :-).
  4. Donors want to hear about one /two human beings and not about detailed programmes or the history of your organisation in the first instance - every story should have the following 4 elements
  • Who are we asking for?
  • Why are we asking?
  • What are we asking for?
  • How will the donation help?

      4. The first step is NOT about getting the money but about getting the person reading interested in your cause and what you are doing.

Who should tell the story?

  1. The person closest to the ground or the beneficiary should NOT be telling the story. They are information givers.
  2. Donors do not want the details on the methods of change in the first instance- they want to hear from someone who "feels" on behalf of them and can share the sentiment. A person who is removed from the actual ground is a far better story teller, because s/he will speak from the "feeling space" - this is more powerful.
  3. Encourage your donors to meet/visit the beneficiary and capture their story that you can share ahead with others- this is always a lot more credible too.
  4. Video testimonials from beneficiaries, even if "badly" made on a simple smartphone are easily the kost effective. trying and capturing this as soon as the benefit has been given to the beneficiary or change has been observed is ideal

When should you tell the story?

  1. The  communication can have two purposes - a) to raise more money and b) to give the donor feedback on her/his donation. If its a) then the best time to tell the story is either in the first week of the month or the last month - important to pause and analyse WHEN people are giving the donation . If its b) then as soon as the funds are utilised by the beneficiary - this lends itself to a lot more emotive content. Of course  both a and b can over

 Annual Report  vs Newsletters. 

  1. An Annual report can comprise information about your programmes and activities. A newsletter is far more engaging if it has 5 different stories about the people you have reached out to through the donors support.
  2. Both these pieces of communication can be brief with an offer to the reader to ask for more information. Your email newsletter can describe one story in detail with a "more" click that leads for the other stories that could then be described on your website or your facebook page. People do not spend more than a minute or two reading newsletters but if what they can read in the first 4-5 lines is engaging they WILL read further.
  3. Annual reports are more read by institutional donors and high networth individuals - and the simpler it is , more people will engage with the same. Detailed financial statements are essential but if not explained in simple language and terminology will not engage a donor. Therefore, summarising financial information in the following way will have far greater engagement
  • What we needed to reach out to our beneficiaries in 2014-2015 - INR ...
  • What we received from all our donors and supporters- INR...
  • How many people we were able to reach out across all our activities -

Using social media

  1. A separate session on this is being planned. However, engaging donors on social media platforms like facebook and twitter can help acquire more donors. In as much as we want to tell the donor our story, we should also capture the donor's response to hearing about her/his donation was used and what that made her/him feel. 
  2. Getting the donor to then share this proactively on their networks is a sure way to acquire more donors. If the donor is willing to tweet about this would also be great.
  3. Getting the donor to add on their Linkedin Profile that they support your organisation also arouse interest and curiosity.

 Offline engagement

  1. One cannot under estimate the value of engaging donors who can spare the time, through offline, face to face interactions with beneficiaries where possible
  2. Creating simple volunteering activities, just organising visits to meet the beneficiaries etc are wonderful ways to engage donors
  3. Some other ideas could include creating donor clubs based on variables such as gender, age , specific interest etc. For instance, inviting donors of a specific programme or to a specific gepgraphical location that they may have supported beneficiaries from, creates the possibilities of deeper engagement and more support.
  4. Inviting donors with their spouses/families to fun events that you could organise , engaging the benefciaries you have supported can lead to both donor referrals and quicker conversions.