Content is Queen in engaging high value donors

By Kimberley Blease

Of all of the insights we have gathered on high value donors over the last 20 years, the most important is this: if you want people to do more with your organization, YOU have to do more. One of the ways you can accomplish this is by creating great content.

Everyone in the not-for-profit sector aims to build real relationships with their donors, as opposed to transactional ones. They want donors to feel that they are playing key roles in the organizations’ missions and are making a difference, as opposed to just being people who give money. Fostering this relationship is especially important with high-value donors who give more than average and are actively engaged with the organizations year after year.

Delivering engaging communications, stewardship and solicitations is a combination of great strategy and integrated channel use, as well as targeted and inspirational messages. But what role does content play in bringing all of this to life?

Your content is unique to you: which makes it special. And makes it royalty amongst marketing methods. It is an accumulation of the stories, the images and the information that makes your organization what it is. It expresses and supports the “WHY”: the most important element in not-for-profit communications. Why you? Why now? How are you different?

Competition in the not-for-profit sector is intense and other charities are fighting for market share and working just as hard as you are to “find their people”. With charitable contribution remaining relatively flat here in Canada, in order to grow you either need to earn more share of donor dollars or create completely new ones. Luckily for you content can help you achieve both!

What makes great content?
Great content is about rich information, amazing storytelling and making use of video and photography to make your message expressive and meaningful. We encourage organizations to get serious about content collection and management. When you have built a great roster of content, these assets can be shared and repurposed between all areas of the organization. Focus specifically on assets that come from major gift proposals, marketing and communications, annual reports and newsletters. Why do you ask? Simply because they are the key drivers in donor support.

One important thing to remember in building content, as my friend Derek Humphries recently reminded us at the Ireland Summer School Conference: people are not content. People are stakeholders, beneficiaries, patients, students, care providers and survivors. They are not faceless: they are the people or families with stories and with lives that have been impacted by your organizations or your cause. You are the curator and the keepers of these stories, so handle them with respect and care.

One of the most wonderful parts of building an amazing experience for high-value donors is your ability to offer more content to them in the form of behind-the-scenes or insider information. The full story, so to speak. We have never used content more than we are right now to offer donors more information that will bring them closer to the cause, inspire them to give again or donate more through formal leadership programmes.

What we have done is taken all of the important lessons that we have learned in major gift fundraising and applied them to donors who are high value in our annual programmes. We call this “the trifecta” and it includes monthly donors who care enough about us to give every month and often sustain that giving for seven plus years, mid-level donors who are giving and investing much more than the average and of course, our legacy donors and prospects. These are people who really love us and care deeply for our causes.

All of these donors deserve the very best we have in content and storytelling. It is important that roll out the red carpet for them in the information we share and enrich their donor experiences. When this happens, they respond in spades.

Executing on “big content”
Creating and marketing with “big content” is not for the faint of heart! These videos, e-mails, direct mail packages and stewardship engagement pieces take work and investment in time to collect, curate, build and share them.

But finding great stories and content should not be a challenge every time you want to build a communications piece. If it is, you need to focus more resources on building a story and content bank. And you need to go above and beyond in the collection of this content. Plan for it to be used in multiple ways from the outset.

The great news is that investing in content is helping to differentiate the organizations that are making it happen and inspiring donors like never before. We are seeing it in average gifts, in cumulative giving, in lifetime giving and in overall revenue growth in these key areas. In other words, we are seeing real results!

In short, people love great big content! They are often surprised by the depth of the content and they are excited about the journey and the experience that it provides. They feel important when an organization cares enough to provide the right stories, rich information and amazing videos and pictures that allow them to connect on another level. That’s the power of great content: and that’s why it’s key in delivering a real, high-value donor experience!

Kimberley Blease is executive vice president and donor journey champion at Blakely ( She has a specialization in the areas of health care and mid-value giving and leads the legacy marketing team for Blakely.

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