As I was surfing “Ya’hoo” – as one of my colleagues calls it, looking for the best Dutch oven made in the universe, I realized that ‘the best of, or the top ten, five, and/or three of’ seems to be some of the most popular ways to deliver information these days. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the succinctness of a list and like that someone has taken the time to rank or at least limit the number of things I actually have to read or do to be successful. Heck, I am guilty of using the top 5 approach in my recent online session on annual giving. Seeing all these lists made me think about how we have evolved as fundraisers but also as consumers of information as year-end approaches.

Social media and technology have made their mark and according to Statisticbrain.com our attention span on average has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to less than 8 seconds in 2012, a side note to this is that the average attention of a gold fish is 9 seconds! So if our attention span is about on par with a goldfish, how are we going to capture and keep our donors’ attention as we close out the year?

With my background in human development and family studies, I tend to approach most things in my life with that lens which definitely includes my fundraising. In my experience, I have learned that the key to retaining donors year round but especially at year-end is to focus on the donor and how he/she likes to be treated, which ultimately translates to figuring out what motivates them.  I often get asked how my background translates into fundraising and my answer is always the same, whether you are working in a therapeutic setting or a fundraising setting it is all about building relationships and meeting the person where he/she is and helping them get where you want them to be – whether that is a healthier day to day life or feeling so good about your mission and the work you do that he/she wants have an impact by making a gift. I am sure the next question you have it, well how do I figure out what motivates my donors and prospects?… and fast!

Well the easy answer is that you probably know more about your donors than you think if you have been a good steward throughout the year with ongoing communication and thanks. However, there are always those donors who are a bit more elusive and certainly those prospects who you have yet to get to know.

As I said, my background makes me a bit of a sucker for research, but I think the work that Hope Consulting and GuideStar did in their Money for Good research had some interesting findings when thinking about donor motivation. In a nutshell, their research found that there are six types of donor motivation that lead to making a gift. Interestingly, there was not one that was overwhelming popular.  Rather, there was a pretty even distribution among the six. From their ‘Casual Giver’ – 18% of donors to the ‘See the Difference’ – 13% of donors, the common theme was based on how the donor felt about the organization and the impact their gift would have.

So my takeaway on all of this is that the year-end to do lists are great and will give you lots of tactical details on the how, what, where, and why of your year-end appeals. But the most important piece of information to take away as you prepare for year end is to speak to your donors in the way that they will hear you. Be passionate about your mission and the impact their gift will have to your organization. If you are thinking like a donor and speaking to them in a compelling way, your year-end appeal will definitely get noticed.

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