One of the age-old dilemmas in the philanthropic space is the notion of “if we don’t show everybody what we do all the time, they will wonder where their money is going.”

And, while it’s true that donors want to see their money going to solid programs instead of operations, it’s important to recognize not every donor wants/needs to know about every program.

We are all inundated with information ALL OF THE TIME, which means relationship management is more important than ever. Nonprofits need to recognize the channel from which their constituents, donors, and supporters are coming, tailor the message based on the audience, and show them the sexiest program that appeals to the audience’s personal sensibilities. Once you’ve hooked them, you can slowly reveal your 10 other programs (another post, another day) and show the breadth of your reach.

You have seconds, if not microseconds, for people to make an emotional connection to your organization. Make sure you lead with your A-game and allow supporting characters to make an appearance when they’re needed. A great for-profit example of this is when retailers insist that all of their recommended products are just as important as the product that the customer chose to look at. Research shows that customers are often confused by the clutter of too many products on a page and wish more attention were given to the product they chose. Conversely they want recommendations from the retailer about what ‘goes well’ with that product. The notion is simple really – focus on what the customer has explicitly told you they care about, and allow them to discover the nuggets of additional products in their time; don’t be greedy.

And the same is true for you my philanthropic friends. Wouldn’t you rather create a relationship by connecting with someone who truly is passionate about one thing you do rather than making a “sale” with someone that is confused by all you do?

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