Is Your Charitable Organization Sexy Enough?

Making your nonprofit cause irresistible to donors

Most people probably would not describe nonprofit organizations as sexy. Instead, it’s easier to think of Hollywood crushes, designer fashions, luxury vehicles and even awe-inspiring renovations as possessing that magnetic pull that captivates our attention.

But it’s important for nonprofit organizations to cultivate and maintain a similar sense of excitement, attraction and appeal when courting would-be donors – and retaining current supporters. [tweet bird=yes] Beneath the surface, there actually are some parallels between being a “sexy” organization and being a beguiling suitor. [/tweet]

Here’s how you can apply the same sensibility to your nonprofit organization, as you work to earn and keep donor support.

Be Forthcoming. It’s all in the details when it comes to inspiring donor confidence and action. When nonprofits depend on boilerplate affirmations of goodwill and generic promises that funds will help move the needle – without cited metrics or measureable results – donors may grow dubious about how their funds are being used. According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Donors have an appetite for more and better information.” Specifically, a recent study found that when donors viewed robust, deep data on a Guidestar page about a particular organization, “activity increased 44 percent and donors felt like they had a much better sense of the organization’s performance.”

Be Social. Even though people across all generational lines use social media today – to the tune of 74 percent of all U.S. adults – the nonprofit space has long been considered a slow adopter of such technologies. In a 2010 paper, Richard D. Waters wrote that “[m]ost nonprofit organizations lag behind and wait to see how other nonprofits incorporate these new communication outlets into their budgets and daily operations.”

Prospective and current donors want to connect with causes they support in the same way they follow other priorities in their lives. This often means using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. According to the Pew Research Center, social network use has even become commonplace among seniors, at a rate of 65 percent for ages 50-64 and nearly 50 percent for those 65 and older. As a result, agencies that have yet to truly dip a toe into social media would be well advised to begin developing a knee-deep strategy because, as many have said, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Be Inventive. Falling in love (and staying enamored with) an organization takes originality and innovation. But being creative doesn’t mean keeping donors guessing – after all, too much mystery can be a bad thing, and nonprofit transparency is vital. Yet it does require taking the time to revisit strategies and doing a refresh accordingly. Opportunities on the table may include institutional events, annual reports or even internal employee rewards. When was the last time your organization considered overhauling its long-standing, yet formulaic, formal gala? Does your agency have yet to produce an interactive year in review? How do donors know that your organization is committed to being a great place to work for staff?

Look the Part. We know that substance means more than style. But an outmoded look or antiquated brand can diminish the appeal of your organization. Has it been a while since your website was redesigned? Does your logo look like it was made two decades ago rather than just two years ago?

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) highlights the organizational perils of an out-of-style brand: “Sometimes, it’s tough for a business owner to see what everyone else does. Like an elderly person happily ensconced in a house they last redecorated in 1972, you don’t realize your website is the design equivalent of an avocado green refrigerator, or your logo looks about as current as orange shag carpeting.”

Donors want to feel proud of the organizations they support. So do Board members. Part of this means having an organizational brand that they are proud to stand behind.

What steps does your organization need to take to become more “sexy”? Is organizational sexiness overrated and, if so, what’s more important? Join our conversation on The Wakeman Agency Facebook page.

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