All posts in “Empathy”

Rekindle the Spark with Your Donors

Research-Based New Year’s Resolutions for Donor Communications

By Tamara Murray

It’s time to look ahead and set goals for next year. Have you thought about your donors and how you can communicate with them better?

We have research-based lessons to show you how. Many of them are easy to implement, but get set aside when things are busy. With our collaborators at Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, we spent a year researching donors’ preferences, what communications motivate them, how to craft the perfect appeal, and more. While the research was focused on Long Island, there are broadly applicable lessons that will help you strengthen your relationship with your donors next year.

When your donors first gave to you, there was a spark — a genuine connection that motivated them to make a gift, perhaps more than once. But like any relationship, it’s easy to take for granted and the spark you initially had starts to dim.

When my fellow strategists and I work with clients, donors are often an audience with whom they want to communicate. Often, I see nonprofits focused on looking for new donors to court. While attracting new donors is important, you shouldn’t forget your existing ones.

This year, I want you to resolve to rekindle that initial spark with your donors. To create that genuine sense of connection — before you both decide to go looking elsewhere.

Resolve to get to know your donors more deeply.

Think about the strong relationships in your life. One reason those relationships are strong is because both people feel like the other really “gets” them. Our research dug deep into understanding what motivates donors on Long Island: why they make donations, what makes their community special to them, their political and religious beliefs, and more. Really knowing your donors can help you better connect with them in your communications.

Have you surveyed your donors lately? Or talked to a handful by phone or in person to learn more about why they support your organization? We learned that Long Island donors want to keep their community a great place to raise a family. As a result, local grassroots organizations worked to make a connection between their work and keeping Long Island a family-friendly place. Showing an interest in getting to know your donors better — and refining your messaging and communications based on what you learn — is a sure way to keep the spark alive.

Resolve to always show gratitude.

We recruited a mystery donor (like a mystery shopper, but for nonprofits) to make gifts to various organizations. Nearly half of the organizations never sent a thank-you note, electronically or in print. Many organizations sent an electronic receipt that only had details about the transaction amount and date, much like an ATM receipt, leaving donors feeling unappreciated.

A crucial way to show better gratitude is to say thank you quickly and consistently. Send a personalized thank-you note by mail or email shortly after receiving a gift. That’s the minimum, but you can go farther. Make them feel like the hero they are: Tell them what outcomes are possible because of their generosity. Donors who feel appreciated are more likely to be repeat donors.

Resolve to show donors just how important they are.

It’s one thing to say you appreciate someone, but sparks turn into flames when you show a donor how valuable they are. Our research tested variations in messaging, collateral and fundraising appeals; stories made all three more effective. The best stories highlighted a need or problem and how your organization’s solution, possible only because of your donors, helped to overcome that challenge.

Even if you only have a small amount of time or space, you can show donors how important they are by featuring stories about the people your organization serves. Here is a short micro-story that effectively does the job:

“My boss made me work 12 hours a day without overtime and would humiliate me. I didn’t know my options. Your support helped me and other workers in the cleaning business start our own cooperative. Now we’re the owners and the employees, and we can take better care of ourselves and our families. My life has changed so much.”

Resolve to be a giver, not just a taker.

One of the top reasons donors stop giving, according to our research, is they receive way too many asks for money. They also cite a lack of transparency about finances and where donations go. The spark in the relationship dulls when the donor feels like it’s one-sided.

The answer is that your organization needs to do a little more giving. I know, you’re hard at work making change — that’s where you give! But relationships are about give and take. When you take a donor’s money, give them the satisfaction of knowing how their money is making an impact. Give them news about your issue, an opportunity to share ideas, or non-monetary ways to support your cause — like an invitation to a (non-fundraising) event or a way to take action.

Further Reading & AdviceGiving-on-Long-Island-Feb-25-1

Want to learn more from our research on Long Island donors? Our friends at the Hagedorn Foundation asked us to create a guide for their grantees and said we could share it far and wide with other organizations. Download the research findings (PDF)

You can also learn more about how this research applies to you. Check out How Donors Decide: Lessons From a Year of Exploring Donor Attitudes on Long Island in Grassroots Fundraising Journal.

Here’s to a 2017 with strong donor relationships and positive social change.

 

 

 

Image: flickr/Patrik Nygren CC BY-SA 2.0, edited from original

old victorian children's books

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: diversifying books; trusting others; new brain technologies; deviating from gender roles; predicting feelings.

Multicultural characters. Author, Dashka Slater, examines the lack of color and diversity in children’s literature. From Dashka Slater via Mother Jones.

Linking causes. New study finds trust is a key motivator in movement participation. From American Sociology Association via Science Daily.

Neuroethics. Scientific advances in brain technologies come with ethical questions. From Andrew Maynard via The Conversation.

Sexism in society. Journalist, Peter Beinart, evaluates why some fear women in positions of power. From Peter Beinart via The Atlantic.

Affective forecasts. Personal prejudice directly affects how empathetic we are towards others. From Association for Psychological Science via Psy Post.

 

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/pettifoggist CC BY-SA 2.0

Chairs posed for conversation

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: opening up conversations about race; connections between emotional, mental and physical health; contagious generosity; brain systems that contribute to empathy; operating on instinct.

Open conversation. Psychologists Keith B. Maddox and Heather L. Urry work to motivate people to approach rather than avoid conversations regarding race. From Jacqueline Mitchell via Phys.

Emotional health.
New research explores the way our emotions directly affect our physical health. From Christina Sarich via Collective Evolution.

Contagious generosity. We are more likely to be empathetic when we observe others’ empathetic responses. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Cognition, not sensation. Understanding and empathizing with someone else’s pain is neurologically different from experiencing our own physical pain. From University of Colorado at Boulder via PsyPost

Fight or flight. Rachael Sharman discusses the functional and adaptive purposes of the fight, flight, or freeze response to a feared stimulus. From Rachael Sharman via The Conversation

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/refreshment_66 CC-BY-ND 2.0

Woman in room with yellow wallpaper

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: beauty in the breakdown; environmental impact on well-being; the trouble with “colorblind” racial attitudes; anxieties about death; fostering empathy via Facebook.

The sanity of madness. We are programmed to feel like we always need to be on top of our game but sometimes a “good” breakdown can allow us to reconnect with ourselves. From Alexa Erickson via Collective Evolution.

The world around us. Environments can have a detrimental or beneficial influence on our well-being and decision-making. From Frontiers via Psy Post.

Seeing color. Claiming to be blind to race can discount and alienate those who experience racial inequalities. From University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign via PHYS.

Facing mortality. The fear of death underlies most of our fears and phobias. From Lisa Iverach via The Conversation.

Social interaction. In a new study, adolescents who frequently use social media increased their levels of both cognitive and affective empathy. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

 

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/JD Hancock CC-BY-2.0

Vincent Van Gogh painting an iPhone

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: remembering one of music’s great; gender neutral bathrooms at the White House; facing fears; sensing the gist of the world; avoiding empathy burnout.

The loss of an icon. Prince was a symbol for activism and revolution, who called for change and fought for justice, and the steps he took for social justice will not soon be forgotten. From True Activist.

Gender neutral bathrooms. President Obama opens the first gender neutral restroom at The White House. From Maria Caspani via Charisma News.

Scary stories. One author seeks to empower and inspire her young readers through scary stories. From N.D. Wilson via The Atlantic.

The illusion of realitySome neuroscientists argue that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses. From Cell Press via Science Daily.

Empathy burnout. The stress of opening ourselves up to the suffering of others can leave us feeling hardened, but forming a goal to alleviate suffering can make empathy feel less draining. From Jamil Zaki via Nautilus.

 

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Image: flickr/JD Hancock CC BY-2.0

Handicap accesible parking

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the Nobel Peace Prize for educators; the spectrum of varying ability; empathy through opera; improving customer recommendations through artificial empathy; hardwired for altruism.

Destigmatizing disabilities. In a culture where genetic mutations stand in for entire identities, Sara Hendren wants to change cultural understandings of disability. From Ankur Paliwal via Nautilus.

Building peace. A Palestinian teacher and former refugee who advocates non-violence was honored with the Global Teacher of the Year Award. From Amanda Froelich via True Activist.

A soldier’s tale. A new opera based on the actual experiences of Christian Ellis, a trained opera singer who enlisted in the Iraq War, brings healing and empathy. From Neda Ulaby via NPR.

Artificial empathy. Marketing researcher Shasha Lu is developing software that can infer people’s internal state based on information they emit from facial expressions or responses. From University of Cambridge via Phys.

Inherently prosocial. Recent studies show that the brain is naturally altruistic, and that increasing empathy is possible through noninvasive procedures. From UCLA via Science Daily.

 

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Image: flickr/Shawn Campbell CC BY 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: brain size and extinction risk; chocolate on the brain; impulses towards retribution; the online spread of Ebola fears; the legacy of Harper Lee.

Extinction vulnerability. Surprisingly, animals with larger relative brain sizes may face greater risk of extinction. From Stanford University via Futurity

A chocolate a day. Regularly eating chocolate may help the brain retain mental sharpness. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Crime & Punishment. A philosopher offers a different vision for our country’s justice system, less based on punishment, and more on rehabilitation and empathy. From Neil Levy via Aeon.

Snowballing stress. With the help of the Internet, stress and fear have the ability to spread faster and further than other emotions. From Adrienne Berard via Nautilus.

Take a walk in someone else’s skin. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird reflects a respect not just for the arc of history, but for the hope that it does indeed bend toward justice. From Megan Garber via The Atlantic.

 

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Image: flickr/Ken Teegarden CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the empowering potential of citizen-led science; color and emotion; teaching empathy through dance; uncovering unconscious bias; gender differences in fear behavior.

Citizen-led science. Citizens are taking a more hands-on approach in scientific research and policy decisions that affect their communities. From Andrew Maynard via The Conversation.

Seeing red. Scientists examine the conscious effects of color on our emotions and what behaviors each color evokes. From Danielle Levesque via Psy Post.

Schoolroom salsa. A New York nonprofit brings ballroom dancing to schools to teach kids emotional skills like respect, teamwork, and empathy. From Audrey Cleo Yap via The Atlantic.

Call it like I see it. Unconscious processes, such as a schemas and heuristics, allow us to interpret the physical world and shape our judgment as well as behavior. From Richard E. Nisbett via Nautilus.

Frozen with fear. A study of learned fear behavior in male and female rats may point to possibilities for better treatment for people with PTSD. From Thea Singer via Phys.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Charlie Marshall CC BY 2.0

Martin Luther King Jr mural in classroom

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: lessons on social justice; generational shifts in thinking; how experiencing pain can increase empathy; non-verbal communication; catching friendly germs.

More than “a Dream.” Educators and activists advocate a fresh, more comprehensive approach to teaching about the black civil-rights movement and Martin Luther Kings, Jr.’s life. From Melinda Anderson via The Atlantic.

Cultural psychology. A study of British Bangladeshi migrants finds that migrant thinking styles can shift toward non-migrant thinking styles after just one generation. From Alex Mesoudi and Kesson Magid via The Conversation.

I feel your pain. Experiencing personal pain makes us more likely to feel sympathetic and understanding towards others’ suffering. From Danielle Levesque via Psy Post.

Ugh. Our brains recognize emotions conveyed through non-verbal vocalizations faster than emotions conveyed through words. From McGill University via Psy Post.

Community microorganisms. A new study found that the more chimpanzees interacted socially, the more their gut bacteria resembled each other’s. From Nathan Collins via Pacific Standard.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Joe Goldberg CC BY 2.0

WALL-E watches himself on TV

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: catching stress through TV screens; the benefits of confusion in the classroom; how rough surfaces can heighten empathy; decision-making and the brain; situational vs. moral wrongs.

Catching stress. We can catch feelings of anxiety from seeing other people under stress, even if we’re watching them on a video screen. From Simone M. Scully via Nautilus.

Confusion in the classroom. A recent study found that students who spent more time in a state of confusion learned more than bored students. From Tania Lombrozo via NPR.

Feeling rough. New research suggests that making contact with a coarse surface can temporarily make you more empathetic. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Weighing options. A relatively neglected section of the brain may play a role in helping us recall the value we assign objects when making decisions. From McGill University Health Centre via Science Daily.

Blanket statements. We often make sweeping condemnations about others’ behavior based on moral principle rather than acknowledging that the behavior may be situational. From Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D. via Psychology Today.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Smitten CC BY 2.0

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