What Donors Want to Hear

If it hasn’t happened already, your donors will soon receive your organization’s Annual Report, the Fall issue of your Magazine, or some other good-news piece prior to the year-end giving season.

Prominent in that piece, however it may be sent (print, website, or email), is the Message from your President or CEO.

The odds are pretty good that Message was, or will be, a massively wasted opportunity. I’ve read hundreds of them and it’s almost always the case.

Is that a little harsh? Well, it’s true.

Your President is the organization’s principal spokesperson. The leader. The visionary. The shining light.

Her or his Message at this important moment? If in print, the type size is most often so small many donors over 55 can barely make it out and ignore the Message completely.

The Message likely contains jargon throughout and is devoid of inspiration, devoid of any semblance of a “case for support,” aka, Why Donors Should Give Your Organization the Time of Day Much Less Their Money.

The Message is what the President has decided she/he wants to say, rather than what the donor wants to hear.

This is not to be critical of your organization. It’s just the way it is. You and the editor of the publication know what the Message should say but are you going to correct your President?

So, time and again, the Message flops.

Except for one shining light. The Message from my friend Corey Quinn to his organization’s donors in the Annual Report. It was, and is, so perfect that I’ve kept it for more than a decade.

Here is the entirety of his Message:

“When was the last time that you opened up a statement from one of your personal investment accounts and saw performance like that pictured to the right? (A chart showing median percentile increases in achievement test scores by their 8th grade students from 2004-2011.)

“For me, it has been some time.

“The graph depicts the remarkable growth of our mission over the past several years. Specifically, this data indicates our growing proficiency at turning your charitable investment dollars into remarkable educational outcomes for our students.

“We can all get excited about a ‘rally in the market’ or ‘growing consumer confidence,’ but what could be more inspiring than to play an integral role in the transformational growth of a young person?

“When you choose to make a gift of yourself to our mission, you are doing just that and so much more.

“Thank you for your truly transformational gift to De La Salle Middle School this past fiscal year. Hopefully you will regard it as one of your more significant (if not most successful!) investments of the past year and you will continue your generous support in the years ahead.

“With sincere gratitude, (
signed by the president).”

When a donor reads that? They smile. They nod. They say to themselves, “Way to go.”

And they reach for their checkbook. It is a remarkable template for success. The President of this tiny school in one of St. Louis’s toughest neighborhoods, shows us all how it’s done.