Communication is the central activity of fund raising. It is the means we use to educate and help the donor to develop a clear vision for himself. There are many methods of communication that the fund raiser can use and the content of the communication depends on the fund raising strategy being adopted.
In India we are very idealistic in our fund raising and assume that people give because God is moving them and that we do not need to intervene and educate the donor. Frankly this is laziness. We need to minister, then only will funds come freely, as it should.
Our communication needs to be planned, keeping the person we are communicating with in mind.
What we need to communicate
What we often forget is that the salesman has to first sell himself. If the salesman is not accepted nothing he says will be accepted. So we need to sell ourselves by dressing well and having an extremely polite but genuine behaviour. We need to radiate efficiency and reliability. That means when we make appointments we keep them. We have information and are well organized. We are not looking for missing papers etc. We also need to communicate our personal concern for the donor and his investments.
Once we have sold ourselves or presented ourselves, we then present the vision which drives our organization. More than sharing a vision we are creating a vision in the donor. This helps the potential donor to see if it is a cause which he has a burden for and to choose his level of involvement. It helps people understand what it is that drives the organization.
We need to sell the CEO. Most organizations are what the CEO is. Large donors want to know the CEO, the kind of person he is, the drive he has etc. This is a valid requirement they have. In India we are reluctant to speak about ourselves or to hype people. But when we are only stating facts and not embellishing it there is no need to be reticent about our leader.
We need to communicate that we are a strong organization. We should be able to speak about our organizational strengths, the quality of personnel we have, the systems we have in place etc.
We need to communicate the results of the ministry. What is the impact we are having. What are the changes we have achieved in the situation etc. Here we need to use word pictures in our conversation and narrate stories rather than statistics.
We need to communicate teaching about the issues we are dealing with. These may be government policies affecting the people we are helping through the ministry, economic realities, philosophical ideas which drive people in this area etc.
Lastly we need to communicate the care and concern the organization has for the donor. We are not after their money. We are helping them fulfil their stewardship responsibilities effectively.
Levels of Communication
There are different levels of communication and the way we communicate depends a lot on the level we are at. There are two ways in which the level of communication is demarcated. The first is according to the size of the group. This can be broadly classified as large group, small group and one to one.
The second is based on the level of engagement the group has with the ministry already. The first level are new people who have no involvement with the ministry. The second level are those who are interested but have not yet become donors. They have come to learn more about the ministry voluntarily showing some interest. The third level are those who have made a donation to the ministry and are being cultivated to know more about the ministry. The fourth level are those who are committed to the ministry and have become partners with you. The communication at each level is different.
Large group presentations are useful at the first level where we are dealing with people who may or may not be interested in what we want to communicate to them. At this level we are trying to filter out those who are not interested and hook those who are. By using large group presentations to such a group you use your time more effectively.
Small group presentations are useful at the second and third level of presentations, though it could be used for the first level also.
One to one is rarely used at the first level but effective for level two and three. It is the only method of communication at the fourth level.
At the first level of communication we only highlight the ministry without going into too much details. The presentation needs to be inspirational rather than intellectual and hook them in their emotions. It speaks of needs, solutions being given and success stories.
At the second level the intellectual content is increased and arguments for the strategy and solution chosen presented. A lot more details of the ministry and the organization can be included and we must be ready to answer questions.
At the third level we are working at building the confidence the donor has in the ministry and so we are working on presenting our accountability, our high quality management structure, our efficiency, the theological and philosophical foundations of the ministry etc.
At the fourth level we are building strong relationships. The conversation is more about the donor than the ministry. Explanation of the ministry is no longer required. It is more about sharing our struggles, partnering with the donors in their struggles, praying and strengthening each other. This is best done one to one, and to limit contact to the first three levels with such donors will ultimately lose them.
These same principles apply to written communication and we need to tailor our written communication to the donor along these same principles.