Throw out those boring annual reports, get rid of your lists of donors and invite your donors further into their giving experience by allowing them to learn the true impact of their giving. I say this all of the time to my audiences, and it can sometimes be a leap to go from bragging about your organization and talking all about the wonderful work you do to showcasing the donor and the amazing things they make possible. So how do you write impact for donors? You draw them in, you show them your organization is vulnerable and that they are the protagonist in your story and turn them into your hero. Remembering that donors want three things, they want access, information and experiences, you need to turn your communications into delivery vehicles for that. Dive them deep into the beneficiary's lives, allow them to have insider information and have your communications come alive with experiences they haven't seen yet. I've been seeing some great examples of just this lately- take a look at IMPACT, the campaign impact magazine from my friend Anne Bottieri and the team at UCF. The prose is impressive the impact powerful, the humanity of it comes across with every turn of the page. This is something that donors can look forward to, a piece that demonstrates in words and images their impact and the importance of thought leadership on philanthropy.
With a completely different approach and one that nails it is from my Canadian friends in BC at the University of Victoria- In its PDF form here, the report has powerful design and great quotes that draw the reader into the text. The text pops off of the page and the storytelling is supreme. The photography is immersive, as if you are there alongside those you are supporting- and look at the way they talk to donors:
So how do you make the switch from the traditional approach to an enlightened world of impact and humanity? One step at a time. First you have to get rid of the old standard way you've been writing for years and also get rid of the lists and self puffery. Get rid of the letter at the beginning of the report from your HIPPO (Highest Paid Person in the Office) No one needs another self aggrandizing letter they will skip in the beginning. Instead start and end with donors, demonstrate their brilliance and their foresight. Be human, be vulnerable and allow personality to infuse your writing. It doesn't have to be so sterile, clinical and institutional. Bring warmth to the table, talk plainly and simply and powerfully and the donors will follow you down the path of gratitude and impact.
What do you do to draw your donors into the world of impact? What inspires you to demonstrate the power of their generosity? I would love to hear more from you on impact.