Reduce Friction for Fundraising Success – PT1

Why aren’t people giving? Maybe there’s too much friction–little things in your messaging or in your presentation that cause hesitation or second-guessing. This week we look at friction in storytelling, and what to do about it.

Friction isn’t always bad – it’s what makes the brakes on your car work. But in fundraising, we don’t want people to put on the brakes! For us, friction is something that makes it harder than it should be to give, to volunteer, or to help in any way.

Most advice for cutting down friction focuses on the donation page. We’ll look at that in the next episode. But for now, I want to focus on friction caused by gaps in our storytelling and missed opportunities because we don’t have the right materials on hand.

Ignore the donor’s journey at your peril.

When we talk about the donor’s journey, we’re talking about the process a person goes through where they get to know you, like you, and trust you. Those three things need to happen before they will “try” you–before they will give or get involved.

Every potential donor you meet is asking these questions:

  • Do I know this person?
  • So I know someone who knows them?
  • Do I like them? (this takes just seconds).
  • Can I trust them?

If they don’t know, like, and trust you, most people will not give to you. They will not give you their platform, and they will not introduce you to their people.

When we feel pressured to raise funds, we can enter into situations with expectations that aren’t in line with the relationship. We skip steps in the donor journey and go straight for the ask–or we start dropping hints. That causes friction.

At times, you’ll be introduced to someone new by someone they already know, and like, and trust. The person who introduces you is lending you their credibility. It’s easier for the new person to trust you, because someone they know, like, and trust already trusts you and recommends you. That reduces the friction.

When you’re coming in cold, you have to give the relationship time and create a pathway that shows them who you are, what you’re about (values), introduces them to your mission and vision, and earns their trust.

Help them help you.

The unbreakable rule for reducing friction is to make it easy for people to support you.

When you meet with someone, don’t expect them to remember everything you said. Be prepared for the conversation with a case document or a one-sheet that covers the basic information they need.

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People will often need to check with a spouse, missions committee, or others before making a decision about support for your cause. Your materials should give them exactly what they need to present your case.

These materials should be well-written, thought-out, and easy to follow. Your case document should cover the donor’s journey (yes, you can do it in just a few paragraphs), tell them exactly what the need is, and how they can give. Hand that to them with your contact information and an invitation to answer their questions.

Make everything easy to read.

In all your materials, online and in print, make everything easy to read. Anything over a 7th or 8th grade reading level will lose people. Even if your supporters are well educated with postgraduate degrees–no one likes to work at reading. Difficult sentences, long words, and big paragraphs all create friction. 

Avoid the “wall of text” approach, where you cram as much information as possible onto a page. Small fonts, tiny margins, and a lack of white space (empty space) around your text make your materials hard to read. Help donors by making your materials easy on their eyes.

You should know that most people are looking at your emails and your website on a phone or other mobile device. Keeping that in mind, make your paragraphs short (2-3 sentences each). Design everything so it looks good and displays correctly on a mobile device.

By reducing friction for donors, you’ll give yourself an advantage and make it more likely that they’ll follow through with a gift. In the next episode, I’ll talk about things you can do to reduce friction in the donation process.

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