Norman Gildin’s Nonprofit Fundraising Magicians is a look at the strategies magicians use to engage their audience and how those same strategies can be used to engage your donors.
Presto! Hocus Pocus! Abracadabra! As kids, we learned these incantations to wish for magic. Sometimes, as a fundraiser, I close my eyes and wish for a major gift from a philanthropist. I utter the magic words and open my eyes, but nothing appears. If only it were that simple.
An article in The Florida Jewish Home on November 23, 2023, inspired me to write about fundraisers as magicians. The Israel-Gaza war caused by the October 7th Hamas attack triggered multiple ways to support Israel. A man named Alan Sakowitz conceived an imaginative way to lift Israeli children’s spirits after that horrific event. Sakowitz develops both single-tenant and multi-tenant properties. He does this as President of Pointe Development Company, which invests in joint venture projects.
After October 7th’s events, as well as donations and fundraising for essential soldier necessities, Sakowitz devised a strategy to captivate audiences through a sense of wonder. He entertained Israel’s children through magic. He aimed to perform for at least 1,000 children in Israel. By the end of his journey, “Alan had performed 26 shows in nine days for over 2,600 people, primarily children, and distributed over 3,000 gifts and sixty pounds of candy….” The story concludes, his trip “is a testament to the power of individual initiative and collective goodwill. Together, we can make a difference, one smile at a time.”
I realized that magicians and fundraisers share similarities. Silent Partner Software is a company committed to building exceptional software products to support nonprofits. In a blog post on its website, Jeff Brooks wrote:
“There are three amazing things you can do in fundraising that are so powerful, you might think they’re magic …
#1 Stories – Stories hook directly into our brains … For a story to act like magic, it needs to do these things:
- Capture the donor’s attention.
- Hold their attention by being interesting and relevant to them.
- Take them somewhere they want to go — which in fundraising is to be about how their values can make the world a better place.
#2 Photos – We know images can convey more information than words. The right photo can lift any fundraising message to higher levels of effectiveness. That’s why they seem like magic…
#3 – Saying Thank you – You’ve seen the claims for how thanking donors can lead to big improvements in donor retention…
It happens when you thank them well…
When you thank promptly.
When you thank them for the same thing you asked them to do.
When you pour your emotions into the thanking.”
Given the chance, fundraisers can create their own magic.
Charity Link is a long-established consultancy that specializes in face-to-face fundraising. Their blog called “Tips and tricks for fundraisers” contains a wonderful article on June 29, 2023, titled “Magic Words that Work in Charitable Fundraising.” I believe these are essential commandments for fundraisers to follow. Coincidentally, there are ten magic words you can invoke and I have applied them in countless solicitations. They’re common sense. But, as the blog also states, “… Charitable fundraising also needs excellent communication skills. Things like body language, tone of voice and eye contact ….”
Since space limits me from commenting on all the magic words, I will expand anecdotally on some. To fully understand each, read the blog online at: https://www.charitylink.net/blog/magic-words-that-work-in-charitable-fundraising
The Power of “You”
When meeting with donors, I always personalize their involvement and gifts. Fundraisers love talking about “us,” the organization. Obviously, that’s important. However, using “your” contribution results in a psychological transference. By focusing on the results caused by the donor instead of the nonprofit’s services, it is a more personal and powerful ask.
“Small” is an Enticement
Every so often, I ask a major gift donor for a lesser contribution. One philanthropic couple, for instance, agreed to support a domestic violence program that required regular replenishment of children’s toys. As soon as these women left the shelter, their children took the toys we gave them. The small amount needed to maintain this program appealed to them. Adding a small delivery fee to a bill also works in commerce. If the minor charge is rebranded as a “small” fee, consumer purchases can see a boost of up to 20%.
“Today” Encourages Urgency
The word “today” can gently nudge the donor. An open-ended ask may lead the individual to delay giving until later. A deadline always creates urgency. End-of-year giving is a perfect example of making a campaign feel more pressing. Leveraging the advantages of this year’s tax laws or strategically timing matching gifts or challenge gifts can be great motivators for giving sooner rather than later. Invoking “today” can propel the donor’s gift forward today.
The Influence of “Support”
My approach has always been to ask donors for their “support” and thank them when I get it. Doing so has benefits. According to the blog, “… The rate of donations online is said to increase by 16% when using the word ‘support’ instead of donate!” Such a slight change in your solicitation pitch can make a difference. It made a difference for me.
I hope my discourse inspires you to become David Copperfield. Now, where did I put that book of magic spells? Alakazam!
Norman Gildin’s Nonprofit Fundraising Magicians was first posted at Major Gifts Ramp-Up
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