I’ve talked a lot about why it’s useful to think of marketing as a process. I’ve advocated for patient, long-term investment in developing a rapport with your supporters and cautioned not to push too hard, too quickly – rather, to wait for a payoff that can only be earned over time.
Today, I want to dig into that idea a little. How soon is too soon to ask for a donation? How do you know when the time is right?
To help illustrate the point, let’s try out an analogy. Let’s try to think about outreach and fundraising like a kind of dating. After all, marketing is, fundamentally, a form of relationship-building.
Sometimes, you meet potential donors at fundraising events where the context invites a more direct approach. Like many relationships, however, outreach often starts out as a connection between strangers. You put your organization out there, on the internet or in the real world, and try to make it look interesting and appealing.
If someone responds, well, then you have a decision to make. How can you take this spark of interest to the next level?
Remember, you’ve only just met. Nobody is proposing marriage here; nobody is going to donate their life savings because they thought your viral video was entertaining.
In a dating framework, the socially appropriate move at this stage is to exchange numbers or set up some other frivolous, low-pressure interaction. Maybe they’ll call you, maybe they won’t; maybe you’ll run into each other again and have another shot.
So, if someone has clicked on your video out of the blue, testing the waters with your organization, what are some reasonable, socially appropriate asks that can help grow their investment in you?
Once they’ve taken that first step, things get easier. You’ve already established a genuine connection. You’re still building the foundation, but you know that they’re interested in you to some extent. Your welcome is at least minimally assured.
This is when you go on the second, third, fourth, fifth dates – however many it takes to make things a little more official. If someone is occasionally visiting your website, keep asking them to sign up for your mailing list or newsletter. If the vibe is right, ask if they’re interested in setting up a meeting or a phone call to discuss how they can be a part of your ongoing projects. Track your interactions and see what response you get when you gradually escalate your asks.
The process isn’t over once your lead joins the mailing list or signs up to make a recurring donation – just like the wedding isn’t the end of the relationship. You didn’t put in all that work just so you could throw one big party and then part ways; if you keep putting in the effort, you can keep enjoying this relationship for years to come.
Show them how important they are to your organization; let them know how much their help matters in your ability to make a difference.
If you like our suggestions or want to share one of your own, feel free to reach out. And don’t forget, you can sign up below to get monthly tips like these straight to your inbox.
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