Personalization Is More Than a First Name in the Salutation

In a recent blog titled, Why I Care About Your Cause, But Don’t Donate, we wrote about the importance of focusing on the donor, fundraiser, or constituent in order to persuade them to support your nonprofit. If numbers are any indication of relevance, this was one of the most-read blogs that we have ever written. This strategy struck a chord.

The blog ends with, “Rather than focusing on the mission’s need or what donors’ gifts can accomplish, make your communication more personal. The way to make it about you is to make it about (them) first.”

What does it mean, to make it more personal? We don’t mean personalizing salutations, or using segmentation, or even using behaviorally-triggered automated marketing tools (although you definitely want to do all those things). We mean focusing on the needs of the person you are trying to persuade to help you rather than the needs of your organization.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Blair Warren makes this point eloquently in his book, The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding. There are reams of market research that documents the best persuasion strategies for engaging with customers (and yes, your constituents are your nonprofit’s customers). But Warren does a nice job of distilling all of it into one sentence. Here it is:

People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.

That sentence contains five insights that can serve as a roadmap for persuading people to rally to your cause.

  • encourage their dreams
  • justify their failures
  • allay their fears
  • confirm their suspicions
  • help them throw rocks at their enemies

Whenever people develop deeply satisfying relationships, they will almost always be based on one or more of these ideas. Although the five covers a lot of ground, there is one thing that is conspicuously absent in the mix. Something that most people think is the most important element of persuasion. There isn’t anything about you. It’s all about the other person.

And as Warren writes, “Can you imagine how much more (persuasive) you will become when you come to be seen as one who can fulfill some of people’s most basic emotional needs?”

So, what’s the trick – how do you make this work? Good news and bad news – there is no exact recipe to apply the five ideas in your messaging. But that’s okay. You don’t need to address all five of the ideas, in order, or at one time to craft powerful messages.

Here’s an example. If I was talking to chief development officers trying to persuade them to consider Turnkey’s peer-to-peer fundraising programs I might use the five ideas this way:

Encouraging dreams – Imagine if you could increase your number of donors by 15% each year. What could your organization do with that additional revenue?

Justifying failures – Year over year there is more and more competition among nonprofits to secure revenue, while the size of “the pie” remains the same. It’s a tough assignment.

Allaying fears – The data shows that there are techniques that you can use to significantly grow revenue. More competition doesn’t have to mean reduced income.

Confirming suspicions – Nearly all people want to find ways they can support their community, to be seen as a “do-gooder.” You need to crack the code to unlock this potential.

Throwing rocks at enemies – The majority of people who register online to fundraise are “Zeros,” or zero-dollar-fundraisers. After registering, they do nothing. It takes special tactics to motivate these Zeros.

Would these messages make you interested in talking with Turnkey? What I am trying to communicate is that it is all about you, the CDO. I am focused on your needs. I haven’t said anything about my wants, my concerns, my proposal or offer.

Amazon is full of books that will tell you how to present your organization and your brand in the best possible light. But what people really care about is themselves. When we focus on these basic principles of human behavior, we will create relationships in which people naturally want to do things for our causes.

It bears repeating -- the way to make it about you is to make it about them first.