Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Thank God For The Salvation Army – They Can Teach Us How To Raise Money

November 14th, 2013 by Karen Climer

I just received a letter from The Salvation Army Orlando Area Command that is terrific!  The theme is “Thank God For The Salvation Army.”  I felt warm and fuzzy after reading it.  Partly because of the work of The Salvation Army, but partly because I was thinking, “Yes!  Someone gets it!  Someone understands that the donor is #1!”

Here’s the first paragraph:

 You’d be surprised at how often the people we help say thing like, “Thank God for The Salvation Army.” Or “God bless The Salvation Army.”  Every time I hear that, I know their thanks belongs to friends like you.

Let’s dissect this a little bit.    The first sentence could have said, “People often say…” or “I often hear people say…”   but instead it starts off with the most important word in fundraising – you.  “You’d be surprised…”  It’s perfect.  Right from the beginning, I’m drawn in.

The first sentence also refers to the “people we help.”  Many nonprofits refer to the people they serve.  I, as a donor, am not interested in serving people.  I’m not a servant; I’m a helper.  I’m interested in helping people.  So by giving to an organization that helps people, I can fulfill my need to help people.  I can’t do that by giving to an organization that serves people.

You might be thinking, “Give me a break, Karen.  They are synonyms.”  They are synonyms, but they’re not equal.   Jen Shang of Indiana University is a psychologist who specializes in donor behavior.  She has found that there are nine words that Americans use to describe a moral person.  One of those words is helpful.  So if I want to be a moral person, I need to help.  Serve didn’t make the list.  So when talking to donors, you help people, not serve them.

Anyway, back the The Salvation Army letter.  Next it says, “Thank God” and “God bless” which reminds you that The Salvation Army is a faith-based organization.  Obviously, that’s not appropriate for every organization but it’s perfect for them.  Finally, The Salvation Army doesn’t take any credit for helping (there’s that word again) people.  They give all the credit to you, the donor.  I love it!

If I were a betting person, I’d bet that this is not the only letter The Salvation Army will be sending out in the next month and a half.  I bet they have a whole series of them planned.  I bet they have emails and social media planned.  They have a website (it’s mentioned in the letter!) that is dedicated to the theme of Thank God for The Salvation Army.  The website is www.thankgodforyou.org

Nicely done Salvation Army.  It’s no wonder that The Salvation Army is always near the very top of the list in terms of private donations.  We can all learn a lot by studying what they do.

Posted in Direct Mail, Year-end fundraising

One Response

  1. Lily

    Another ‘helpful’ example of how solicitation letters should be crafted. So many organizations think it’s all about who they are rather than who they help and who gives them the ability to be helpful.

    Good work, blogger Karen!

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