Donors — even passionate and committed ones — want you to simplify your message. After decades of experience talking directly to donors about their perceptions and feelings about the non profits they support, we know that nuance and complexity in messaging tends to confuse rather than inspire.

Last week, we were reminded of this yet again. We are finishing an assessment for a major international organization that has made some shifts in their approach. What this lapsed donor says is representative of their broader donor base:

“I get the hint that Organization X has decided that policy and advocacy is what is really needed. But are they also doing direct service too? It feels like too much to add to their plate. I don’t have a clear sense of their priorities, so I just put them on the back burner.”

If you are communicating to donors about EVERYTHING your organization does, you are communicating to them about NOTHING.

Making hard, data-informed choices about what to talk about and when is paramount in a world where donors attention spans are short and competition for donor dollars is fierce. Some questions to ponder…

  1. What are your key messages for donor audiences? Choose no more than three. These messages are likely different than those you will use for policy makers, journalists and other stakeholders.
  2. What stories exemplify these key messages? Choose no more than four. Tell them over and over and over again — across channels and mediums. 
  3. What attributes do you want donors to ascribe to you? Strength? Commitment? Compassion? Fierceness? Collaboration?  Choose no more than five. And make sure these attributes are expressed in your messages and stories.

Editing and simplifying the complexity of non profits is the hard work fundraisers must do! We are the translators.