Cultivation, Cultivation, Cultivation

Cultivation, cultivation, cultivation

Everyone knows the tale of the property magnate who was asked the secret of property investment. He answered that there were 3 critical factors: location, location, location.

I’m pretty sure now that fundraising with individual donors has its equivalent. The 3 critical factors for success with individual donors are: cultivation, cultivation, cultivation.

In major donor fundraising cultivation is king. In fact cultivation is almost all there is to major donor fundraising. That’s a bold claim, so let me demonstrate that it is true with this little test: how long does it take a person of moderate intellect to understand what a charity’s (any charity’s) main purpose is? If the statement of the charity’s aims is even half clear ( now that’s another question entirely!), but if it is reasonably clear, almost anyone is going to understand what the charity is all about in two or three seconds flat. So, all we need to do to land major gifts, then, is get wealthy people to read and understand a reasonably clear statement of aims? Wrong. Completely wrong. In fact, knowing everything there is to know about the charity’s aims, projects, extent of the need being addressed etc. counts for almost nothing in major gifts fundraising. Why? Because the prospect is still a million miles away from making that gift, however well he or she understands the cause. And what is it that will bridge that gap? Its cultivation – the process that, through time and acquaintance, brings the donor to the point of trust. Trust that he or she is giving to a well-managed cause. Trust that the leadership are sound people. Trust that the money will actually do some good. Trust that she/he is in the company of other like-minded donors. Trust, trust, trust. And, as everyone knows, trust simply takes time to build. It also takes a very long time simply to create opportunities for the donor prospect to meet enough of the charity’s leadership and do so often enough for her/him to reach the point where they say to themselves “ Good, I’ve seen enough, I’m satisfied. Now, what can I do to help?”

In legacy fundraising cultivation is king as well. Good legacy fundraisers invest months and years in gentle, helpful contact with prospects. Partly this is in building the donor’s understanding of the cause, of course. But also, and vitally, it is in building trust that the donor’s last great act of philanthropy will be well directed. That the donor’s wish to perpetuate her or his own values after death may be fulfilled. And such trust-building takes time. That’s why steady programmes of relevant contact are never a waste of money and are always repaid with good levels of legacy income.

And in smaller levels of giving, mostly by post, cultivation is critical too. But here, I do think there is a slight difference. In major gifts and legacies, cultivation is groundwork, leading towards that one big donation or legacy. In smaller level giving

( say in the £5-£100 range), it is the habit of giving by post that needs to be cultivated. The more the donor is asked, the more he or she repeats the behaviour. And the more the act of giving is repeated, the more likely it is to happen again. This, in my view, is because the actual act of giving, that moment of writing out the cheque, is the real “high” that the donor enjoys. And, if cultivated properly, will want to enjoy again and again.

The art of getting and keeping attention

The art of getting and keeping attention

There’s a battle going on. It’s for your attention. And the attention of every other person in the land. Its fought on paper, on laptop screens, tablets and smartphones. And its going on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Your message is caught up in this battle.

Whether it gets lost or found depends on, of course, how well it is targeted. If it reaches the wrong person’s smartphone there’s not much you can do to motivate that person to take notice. The matter is out of your control.

But even when the message reaches the right person the battle is far from over. This blog is on the subject of how you effectively control matters from this point on. Because, its on this battleground that, I believe, most well-targeted communication, still fails to get through.

Getting attention – How to create subject lines and headlines that get read.

Mailchimp published a study of ‘most likely to be read subject lines in emails. It was based on 40 million emails sent via the Mailchimp system. Top of the list were simple, factual subject lines announcing actual events or news of some sort. Next were subject lines offering solutions to problems. Lowest were ‘salesy’ subject lines making promises, whether far-fetched or credible.  I’d guess that the same applies to all headlines in all marketing communication.

But it’s the way that these events or solutions are communicated that counts. In the era of ‘authenticity’ we have now, but probably always, what counts is simplicity and directness. The faster you put across the ‘deal’, the faster will the recipient ‘get’ the relevance of the offer being presented to her or him.

As a simple example, we have a client that has, for 45 years, been a pioneer in research into cancer metastasis – the mechanisms that allow cancer to spread. By far the majority of cancer deaths are caused by cancer metastasis. Our direct mail campaign could have asked donors to help stop cancer spreading. But, instead it asks donors to “Help end the threat of secondary cancer”. This call to arms has been running successfully for 10 years now.

Keeping attention – sell the next line.

Its easy to think that the sale is the most important thing to push. Or whatever end result it is your communication is trying to provoke But it isn’t.

As a communicator you have only one thing to sell.

You have to sell the reader on the value of reading the next line. The reader is jealous of his or her time and will stop reading at the drop of a hat. And, unless the reader does read the next line, she or he will not reach the end point – and not get to the end result you want.

How? Simple. The next line needs to expand and build on the previous. It has to lead the reader further into the story (or web?!) you are spinning. The next line has to offer more content, more interest, more satisfaction. So, every word counts. The weaker each word, the greater is the chance of the reader breaking away. This is why adjectives are so unhelpful. They don’t really add much, just fill out. And readers can spot ‘filler’ a mile off. Its why subject lines and headlines with heady promises are so unsuccessful.

Layers of proof

So what will most successfully sell the reader on reading the next line? Simply this: layers of proof that the message in the subject line or headline is true. And if you can’t substantiate this…..the subject line or headline shouldn’t be there in the first place. Should it?