Be dynamic and bold in your storytelling
The American journalist Nicholas Kristof once wrote: “Any brand of toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups,” and this is so tragically true. If you are able, spend time investing in your brand. Use colour. Tell stories and use technology to bring these stories to life. Infuse your words with energy. Programme officers like me browse countless websites and proposals and you want your work to catch their eye.
Tangibly describe what you do in one sentence
There are countless times where, after many minutes of scrolling a charity’s website that it is still unclear what it actually does. Too often, charities coat their activities in jargon using words such as “catalyse” and “empower”. Mission and vision statements are important, but they must be supported with a very clear, short explanation that outlines how they help.
Be specific about where you work
Blurring everything together into regions without listing exactly where you work sends the impression that your interventions are not bespoke to the communities you work in. If you work globally, list the countries. If you work nationally, list the cities. If you work municipally, list the boroughs. (Note: Africa is not a country.)
Illustrate your impact in a few grand totals
You need three numbers: how many people you have reached in total since your founding, how many people you have reached in the past year and how many people you plan to reach in the next year. If your work is not easily quantifiable, do so in whatever way is most appropriate.
Make sure what you’re asking for can be easily summarised
Most donor decision-makers read summaries prepared by a junior staff member or an external adviser before deciding to invest time in reading the full materials. So make it as easy as possible for this person to present you in the best light. Imagine an excel sheet with who, what, where, when and why columns, and have sentences that can be easily copied and pasted (or easily amended) to fit neatly into these.
Take beautiful pictures
Those with vibrant, optimistic, action-oriented pictures really stand out because they illustrate what success looks like, which provides context and incentive for a donor’s support. Plus you’re more likely to be featured in a donor’s annual report if they can use your visual storytelling.
List your donors clearly on your website
Somewhere on your website (unless they prefer to remain anonymous), clearly state who is funding you. It will show you are a stewardship expert and proud recipient. Donors always like to give to causes that already have support behind them because it’s a less risky investment and closing a gap is fantastic fundraising leverage. Clearly listing supporters is especially important with corporate funders.
source Rachel Stephenson Sheff/IG Advisors sept 2017