At this time of year, your mailbox and inbox are probably as crowded as mine is. Appeals from organizations you’ve supported. And appeals from new organizations, hoping to grab your attention.
It’s overwhelming to you – a professional. Imagine how it feels to those kind donors?
There are many ways to grab someone’s attention. But not all of them are good. How can you stand out in the crowd?
Good attention and not-so-good attention
Imagine: you’re at a four-way stop when someone blasts through the intersection without even pausing. That car certainly grabbed your attention. Your heart is beating faster. You may have offered a gesture as they blew by.
That’s attention, all right. But not the good kind. Not the kind that makes you want to know the person driving that car.
Now imagine: you’re at a holiday gathering. (Well-ventilated and possibly still wearing your mask, right?) A friend of a friend is sharing a story.
Immediately, your ears perk up, because humans love stories. And this person is good at telling stories. She has your attention. When you find out the story is about someone in your community who just lost their house to a fire, you’re ready to help.
Which kind of attention does your organization need?
You’re ready to help because the need was expressed in a way you wanted to accept it. (A story) You’re ready because you already trust the storyteller. And you’re ready because this is something that happened in your community.
That’s the attention you want from your donors or prospective donors.
What does your organization offer that’s unique?
If you only tell but don’t show why your organization is the one to trust, you’ll have a hard time raising money. Especially at year-end!
So, how can you stand out?
This is why the little things matter. And by “little things” I mean details and specificity. What language are you using to describe your organization’s work?
Next time you have a heavy mail day at home, open them all and skim the appeal. My bet is you’ll find a lot of general language that doesn’t really mean much. “Help us serve our community”, for instance. Without some details, that means nothing, right?
How do you talk about your work?
Remember that your readers do not have the depth of knowledge you do about your organization’s work. If you have a recognized name, they’ll have some idea… but it’s probably not nearly as formed as you might hope.
Zoom in… details can make all the difference
Get specific. Use stories. Use details. For you, “we’re a food bank” unlocks a wealth of associations. You understand everything that happens, from sourcing food, to stocking it, to how you bring it to people or pantries. Your donors likely do not have your understanding.
So take them with you. Bring them to what you do and show them. This is where small details – the taste or scent or feel of something – can be the difference between attention your donor happily gives and donor boredom.
A hungry person walks into your soup kitchen and is greeted by the scent of chicken soup. It reminds her of the soup her mother made.
Or a customer at the pantry leaves, astounded by how heavy the bag in his arms feels. It’s been so long since he didn’t have to worry about his next meal!
What are the small, unique, human details that make your work clear? The ones that take it to a personal level? What can you use to connect your donors to your mission?