The “We” in Fundraising

I was recently asked “What is the one piece of fundraising advice you would give me, if you could pick only one?”

And I answered “Stop using the word WE.”

Now, that takes a little bit of explanation, but I promise, it’s a game-changer.

Let’s explore this…

You sit down to write a fundraising letter or marketing materials… what do you want to tell your potential donors? About your successes, about your accomplishments and credentials, how you’re different than other groups, your mission, and your needs…

This translates on paper and gets sent to the donor, who – I promise you – skims rapidly through your letter. What they see in their skimming is this:WE image

“We have reached our goal of… we offer programs to… we exceeded our project with… we meet the needs of the community… we need your help to move to the next step.”

Now, put your donor hat on and re-read that. Where do I (the donor) fit into this, other than to pay the bill?

Donors often say that they feel like an ATM machine, only contacted when someone needs money. The WE where we talk about the importance of our work is leaving out the very person we hope will help us.

Ah…. That brings me to the next important point. Watch out for the “Us” as well.

Writers think “us” sounds inclusive and will make people feel like part of the group, but it rarely does.

You may wonder why I would write a whole blog post on this – but remember, its my #1 choice top advice to give about fundraising when asked. There is an identified psychological element to the wording used in fundraising messages and how the donor responds.

I recently got a post card that said “Please help us build our new Park!”

Again, think like the donor… an engaged citizen who cares about the community and the recreation agency, or has children who benefited from recreation programs, but is also a tax payer and very busy person with bills and a life etc.

“Please help us (the parks agency) build our (the park agency’s) new Park!”

This sounds a lot like “We need money and you should give it to us.” Or as I like to explain it “Please help us pay our bills”

Now, this is not just my opinion. I particularly am fascinated by the language used in fundraising, copy-writing, and the psychological connection. If you want to learn more, research Donor Centered Fundraising.

So, let’s wrap this up: What would work better, make the donor feel included and welcome, and bring in dollars?

Original: Help us build our new park!

Instead: Join us! Let’s build a new park!

Note that “us” in this example feels inclusive, us all together.

Original: “We need your help to build our new playground!

Note here that the writer means for the “our” to be inclusive, everyone will feel excited about our new park, but it does not come across that way. Instead it sounds like “help us pay our bills”.

Instead: A New Community Playground! Will you help?

Better yet, try to include the word “you”. You the donor are vital to the success of this community project, you the donor can join this cause and be special, you (donor) can be a hero to so many kids!

Now do you feel the energy?

You can enjoy the new expanded playground with your family (future feeling) or You can make a big difference (feel like the hero).

As you’re writing, put yourself in the donor’s shoes and think carefully about the we-us-you’s that you use in the writing. It can really make a big difference!

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Author: Molly A. Hetrick

Hello, I am Molly. I am currently the Manager of Philanthropy at a public library after working for 17 years in the recreation field as a Naturalist and Supervisor. I also offering training on Customer Service, Civility, and Fundraising in Recreation through my consulting business, Training With Molly. I have been training and consulting for 9 years and I love to help people learn and grow.

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