Life stories are like fingerprints. No two are alike and everyone has them.
All of our life stories are filled with challenges that must be overcome, successes and failures, good times and heartaches, help we received from others and times we provided assistance.
When people think about giving, they often start by visualizing their own autobiography. They think about their life and they search their memory for a connection between your cause and their past experiences and feelings.
An episode in my wife’s life story.
When my wife was pregnant with my second child she had a really hard time because of her Type-1 diabetes. Pregnancy makes it really hard to control your blood sure levels. As a result, tiny holes were created in her retina of her eye allowing fluid to get between the retina and the lens. The overflow of fluid caused the retina to pull away from its underlying blood vessels starving the retina of oxygen and leading to detachment.
She saw one large black spot in that eye. It was terrifying.
Thankfully, we live near the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, the largest research and clinical ophthalmic institution in the country. There she got the care she needed. Some unbelievable surgeons whose names I don’t even remember repaired her eye so she could see again.
The relationship ended.
We are so thankful, of course. But, interestingly, we never heard from them again. We’d give if they reached out to us properly by, perhaps, first asking us how she’s doing. Then it would be great to hear how they are helping others like my wife. Imagine if they sent us a letter telling us a story about a teenager who got the same kind of care followed by a request for a gift so that others might benefit from the talents of the amazing surgeons too. That would do the trick for sure! But, no, we never heard from our friends at the Wilmer Eye Institute again. So other charities took their place.
Don’t let it end.
Your job as a facilitator (fundraiser) is to recognize that each supporter’s reason for giving is as unique as his or her fingerprints. Learning about their stories will help you understand why they care and what might motivate them to give. But the process of telling their story will also help them think about how their lives entwine with your organization’s mission. It’s important that you help them connect the dots to strengthen their own reasons for giving.
As they tell their stories, they might often recall names of people who helped them, mentored them, cured them, and inspired them. These people might be family members, friends, teachers, nurses, nuns or eye surgeons. Knowing these names is essential because they can immediately trigger recollections of past life experiences that drive emotions and biological reactions.
Those names are unbelievably powerful. Don’t ever forget them and don’t ever forget how they connect each donor to your mission. Mention them every time you write or talk to your supporters. Recount their connections and why they matter to them. Then reconnect them to your organization’s mission and to reasons why the donors might want to support your cause.
It is your job to help your donors remember past life experiences. It is your job to help your donors connect the dots. Doing so will increase response rates, commitment, and donations.
But I don’t have time!
Yep, it’s hard to remember every donor’s story, right? Even if you only try to remember the stories of your major donors and legacy gift prospects, it’s still tremendously challenging.
That’s why you need to leverage technology. Capturing those tidbits of information is easy if you ask your supporters to tell you about them online using survey forms. Then the data can be sent directly into your CRM and used in variable data, highly personalized, highly relevant communications.
Sure, it’s hard. But technology can make it much easier by handling the heavy lifting.
CURIOUS ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY? SEE THE VIDEO HERE.
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