This past weekend, I participated in the StayClassy collaborative and awards for nonprofits in San Diego. My favorite part was the clinic I moderated with an amazing group of award-winning nonprofits – including the Soldiers Project – on Friday afternoon. There were some great minds in that room, and we tackled some of the biggest challenges in messaging.
One of the most interesting ideas we discussed was the problem/solution ratio in our marketing and fundraising. So much of the content of our outreach focuses on the problems we are trying to solve. For example, the Soldiers Project focuses on the fact that there are a staggering 18 veteran suicides per day in our country. In fact, more losses of life occur right here at home rather than on the battlefield. People all around us are suffering from the invisible wounds of war. You probably have a similarly striking and heart-rending problem that you want to change.
Here’s the challenge. We often spend the majority of our words and appeals on that problem and give far less air time to the solution that will change that tragedy. Check out your appeals, your home page, your last direct mail piece. How much space did you give to the problem? How much to the solution? If you gave more attention to the problem, you have a bigger problem!
Here’s why. Donors don’t give because things are bad – they give to make things better. If you only paint a vivid picture of how bad things are, then how can donors imagine – much less sign up for — a journey toward a better place? You must create a destination for you to go together – and that requires more than a vivid picture of all that’s wrong. It demands an equally – if not more – brilliant image of what is possible. That is what gets people to jump on board for the way forward. In other words, if you have at a 3:1 problem to solution ratio in your messaging, you might want to rethink that emphasis.
The Soldiers Project hadn’t lost a single veteran who has gotten confidential counseling through them. They talk about the problem – the 18 suicides a day. As well they should. But they also highlight their success. And that’s what makes me want to donate. Hope is a great motivation to give!