This month, a few members of the Benefactor Group team attended the 2023 Bridge Conference to present on a favorite topic: how to effectively communicate with donors through the lifecycle of a campaign.
Why is this important? Campaigns energize communications: they are a treasure trove of big ideas and urgent messages. But they are also guided by structures—phases, sequential solicitation practices, and other rules—that should be followed to effectively engage your donors.
We were thrilled to be joined for this presentation by our friends from the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, who shared real-world examples from their successful campaign: an initiative which raised $30+ million in under two years to transform hunger relief in Central Ohio. (You can learn more about their work here!)
You will find our key takeaways below:
When it comes to powerful communication tools, the case for support trumps all.
A case for support is an essential resource for your communicators, front-line fundraisers, and core volunteers—the guiding document that informs all other messages and materials. It communicates the “raison d’etre” for your campaign: asserting a strong, consistent rationale for why you are launching this initiative at a particular moment in time, and why donors should invest. The process of developing a case for support can be complex and messy—from building consensus among your leadership team to crystallizing how dollars will be used—but the end result is critical to instill confidence in donors and secure principal gifts.
Use the process of building your case for support to engage and cultivate early campaign donors.
By inviting your closest friends and supporters to help shape your case for support, you signal just how highly you value their insights, stories, and experiences. Treat your major donors like partners—because they are!
Stories, stories, stories.
Campaigns follow rules. Your audience will change from phase to phase. So, too, will your main messages and materials. However—regardless of the type of donor or phase of your campaign—remember an individual person is the final decision maker when it comes to giving to your campaign, and people are inspired by stories. Along with appealing to the head (with your value proposition, brand alignment, or data points), your campaign communications need to reach the “heart.” They must connect with the human, showing them how their gift will contribute to a better world. Focus on the cause—the impact of the gift—rather than on your institution. And most importantly, tell stories. Our empathy—and our philanthropy—is greatest when focused on one individual.
Glossy brochures don’t secure gifts—people do!
Keep in mind that all campaign materials—your brochure, your video, your leadership book—are designed to complement personal solicitations. They demonstrate vision and commitment. They encourage volunteers and inform donors. But they do not replace a personal solicitation. Relationships always come first.