The Power of Personal Relationship
How to get a donor to read your appeal letter?
We know she won’t keep reading if she senses no reason to. She has to relate somehow to what is being shared. This is the basic, clinical definition of relationship.
But the warm, human concept of relationship is what enables basic, clinical relationship to occur!
If I’m reading a letter that engages me — that connects to the deep–down-inside-of-me person that I perceive myself to be — I’ll enter into a relationship, if only for a few moments, and allow myself to consider responding.
But if what I’m reading doesn’t feel like a valuable relationship, I’ll bail out.
Countless ministry organizations haven’t involved their donors in a personal relationship. Which is doubly sad — not only because the ministry benefits enormously from the increased response of donors in relationship, but also because relationship with a donor isn’t as difficult to accomplish as it may seem.
The components of a successful donor relationship are very much the same as the components of a successful friendship.
- You talk to your friends in a certain way.
- You reveal certain things to your friends.
- You lower your guard with your friends in ways that you don’t lower your guard with, say, the FedEx courier.
- And fortunately, in the case of most ministry organizations, much of your relationship with your donors is conducted through the mail, which is a very private venue for communicating the private thoughts that only friends would exchange.
This, then, is the heart of donor response.
Look at the ways friends communicate, and you’ll find the best way to establish relationship with your donors. (Some call it “friend raising,” not fundraising!)
Does this seem simple-minded — to study “friendship” as a means of building a ministry organization’s revenues? We’ve found in working with dozens of ministries that it’s completely appropriate.
If we see our donors as members of our ministry family, it only follows that a friendly relationship should deepen our involvement with each other.
(Sadly, many ministries think they have friends or “partners” when the organization really hasn’t done anything to cultivate the relationship.)
Down through the years, we’ve frequently taught the components of friendship and applied them to ministry marketing. These components of friendship have come directly out of the settings in which we’ve taught. In almost every session we have asked attenders to call out the reasons why their best friend is their best friend, and we display the list of reasons for the whole group to see.
We have yet to find any serious foundations of actual “best friendships” which do not fall into one of these categories. The specific terminology may be different, but the meanings are consistent.
Next up: The components of friendship!