According to Anne Melanson, president of Bloom Non-Profit Consulting Group Inc., too-frequent and poorly prepared asks are the biggest challenge to fundraising. “It’s really about ‘ask fatigue’ rather than giving fatigue,” she tells the Toronto Globe and Mail.
In the same article, Marina Glogovac, president and CEO of charity-advocacy group CanadaHelps.org says that they key to standing out in the increasingly large pool of charitable organizations is quality communication. She explains, “It’s fundamental that every charity be very clear and develop their impact statements and a way to communicate what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and what they’re trying to achieve more clearly.”
Glogovac has hit the nail on the head: At the core of successful campaign communications is storytelling—the why and the how instead of just the what. This approach isn’t new, but it is often forgotten in the effort to get new campaigns under way and generate much-needed funds for projects. In order to give your fundraising campaign the best chance at striking a cord with donors, you need to take a step back and focus on your story, or what’s your why?
Before you launch your next campaign, start by bringing together a focused group of staff and board members for an in-person meeting. Then borrow an exercise from the world of branding and ask everyone to answer the following questions:
What do we do?
Why do we do it?
What core values of our organization are addressed by this campaign?
Who benefits from what we do?
What value do we bring to or problem do we solve for these people?
What is the ideal outcome of a fully funded campaign?
This “what’s your why” exercise will develop the information you’ll use to distill into a brief description of your campaign—preferably a two-sentence “elevator speech” version and an extended one- or two-paragraph description. This will come in handy many times over, both for in-person asks and to inform any digital or printed campaign collateral.
It will also be a guideline for any content you create for social media, because it will help you maintain your focus on the story—the why—behind your campaign and the people it serves. You’ll find that this will not only streamline your campaign efforts, but will help you better engage donors by appealing to the emotion behind the act of giving.
Focus on your why, and you’ll be surprised how easily everything else will follow.