For whatever unfathomable reason my brain somehow connected coverage of Donald Trump’s bizarre eulogy at a supporter’s funeral with some of the lousy behavior exhibited by some nonprofits in dealing with their donors.
Let me explain.
At a memorial service for Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, half of the rabidly vocal pro-Trump commentary duo of Diamond & Silk (so rabid they were even banned by Fox Nation for spreading conspiracy theories about Covid-19) Trump was first profusely praised by Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway for how he treated Diamond and Silk “just like the other children: Eric, Don Jr., Tiffany.”
When Trump spoke later, however, he weirdly told the mourners that , “I thought I knew them both, I didn’t. I knew Diamond, but I didn’t know Silk at all. I just learned about Silk. You’re fantastic, you’re going to carry on beyond, beyond anybody’s wildest imaginations.”
Having belittled Silk, who had visited the White House and for years tirelessly rallied support for Trump, he told the mourners that Silk had left no impression on him until that day.
After Silk goes on and on about how much she loves Trump and all the great times they had together, Trump gets up and says this: “I knew Diamond, but I didn’t know Silk at all. I just learned about Silk. You’re fantastic.” pic.twitter.com/jgReN5hW5C
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) January 21, 2023
AND THEN… quickly breaking away from any honorifics, any thoughts of the deceased or her partner, Trump went on to — once again — claim without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen from him along with an extended rant the state of the country on a variety of fronts, occasionally interspersing that rant with complaints about the length of the funeral.
So how is all this connected to some nonprofits’ lousy donor relationship behavior?
At the Agitator we give examples and advice on this every day. The importance of saying Thank You and the failure of most organizations to do so properly. The importance of understanding and messaging on the identity and personality of the donor, mostly ignored by the “one-size-fits” all approach generally treated as rule rather than exception. The importance of seeking donor feedback, largely ignored by the vast majority of organizations.
But ask most fundraisers and they’ll tell you without hesitation how important it is to be “donor-centric.”
Well, the “sins” I just mentioned are anything but evidence of putting the donor front and center. Rather, far too many organizations seem to practice a mild form of Trump-like egocentricity when it comes to focusing and honoring their donors. Instead, they range out and about like some hunting dog on the scent detailing dry and dusty statistics, claims of numbers of Ph.Ds on their staffs, and on and on. Everything except the central importance of the donor to accomplishing the mission.
Perhaps the most grievous example of organization-centric communication –almost bordering on the narcissistic in some cases—is the Annual Report.
And so, as I reflected on Trump’s funeral oratory and how it represented an extreme example of some nonprofit shortcomings, I thought it appropriate to share a bit of wise advice from one of my favorite fundraisers –Claire Axelrad . In a piece, published 2 days before Trump’s eulogy and titled, Transform Annual Reports into Gratitude Reports for the Best ROI Claire notes, “Annual reports don’t have to be dray as dust. In fact, the most effective ones are not financial reports; they’re a story with the donor at the center. And they inspire action.”
I’m sure that most Agitator readers are painfully aware of the time, arguments, blood, sweat, ego and money that many organizations pour into their annual reports. To make all that anguish worth it Claire suggests the report at least meet these criteria:
- “Resonate with people emotionally.
- Paint a picture people want to jump into.
- Showcase the value of philanthropy and what it does to create change.
- Shine a light on how much the donor is needed.
- Include specific areas where donors can help.”
Here’s Claire’s Winning Suggestion
“Rather than “2023 Annual Report,” consider a more donor-centered title like “Generosity Report.” “The Year of the Donor”. “Impact Report” or “ You Make it Possible”
You’ll find Claire’s Top 5 Gratitude Report Strategies of great help. You can read her detailed advice about each of the 5 startegies in the complete article . Here they are:
- Tell a Story with the Donor at the Center.
- Use Pictures Worth a 1,000 Words
- Inspire Action
- Cut the Crap
- Take it Online
So, take it from the Agitator, if you aspire to more loyal donors, higher retention rates, and a better bottom line make all your donor communications—whether appeals, renewals, emails, or annual reports focus them as a celebration and call to action for your donor heroes and not as a Trump funeral eulogy.