threearrows 2013-Aug30
“What do you want me to do and why?” the donor practically yelled.   “I don’t understand what you are saying.  And whatever you ARE saying is really not grabbing me!”
And that, my friend, sums up the problem in most major gift fundraising.  We want the donor to give and we spend a lot of time figuring out how to motivate her giving.  But we don’t spend enough time describing the need.  And when we do describe it, it is not compelling.
Let me explain what I mean.
When you look at the meaning of the word “compelling,” the first words/phrases that come up are “forceful, demanding attention, draws you in, attracts your interest, convincing and irresistible.”
So, here is the key issue.  When you look at the presentation you are currently working on for your donor – any presentation, in any form, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Is my presentation forceful?  Does it make a strong case for action?
  2. Does it demand attention – does it draw you in – does it attract your interest?  Seriously, there is so much noise out there that it is often difficult to find ways to cut through the clutter and draw the donor in.  I saw one approach where the opening headline was, “We need to talk about Mary.”  And then there was a picture and a story.  I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing.  It demanded my attention.  It drew me in. It caused me to be interested.  What does your presentation do?
  3. Is it convincing?  Is your description of the need convincing and believable?  When you’ve finished reading it are you absolutely convinced that (a) the need is true, and (b) we must DO something about it? If not, go back to writing a new version.  If you have a great description of need, but the solution falls flat on its face, then you have some work to do in that area.  The convincing bit is on both sides: the description of the need and the description of the solution.
  4. Is it irresistible?  This is the final key point.  Irresistible means that the donor just cannot avoid taking an action.  If you have done the first two steps well – describing the need and providing a believable solution – then the donor will move to adoption.  If she doesn’t, then you either missed it on one of those points OR you chose an area she just is not interested in.

I would run every single letter, proposal, video, web page, etc. through these “test” points to see if your message is compelling.  If it isn’t, don’t expect the donors to respond.  They just can’t.  And you really can’t blame them.
All of us, as human beings, are wired to solve problems and help others.  When we don’t help others, it’s usually because we were not convinced there was a need.  Or, if we are convinced, we don’t feel the proposed solution is either helpful or practical.  That is the cold reality.
The good news is that you can do something about it.   So focus on that.