Swipe Right: Tips for Approaching Your Donors Taken From the Online Dating Scene

In this swipe left/swipe right world, those in the dating scene have learned to make very quick decisions about whom they are interested, often with very little information at the outset. In an instant, they decide to swipe left (delete) or swipe right (connect), deciding if a person is worth getting to know based on a profile picture, a tagline and maybe a few key facts. 

Donors, donor prospects and consumers, in general, are really not that much different — especially those who make up those elusive younger generations with which we are all seeking to make meaningful connections. How we communicate and how we connect requires us to understand how quickly that opportunity might come (or go) as attention spans are short and we are all experiencing constant information overload.

Perhaps, we need to think about dating our donors and making thoughtful choices about that first impression, so they will swipe right. Your opportunity to engage a new generation of donors will require some innovative thinking and how you introduce yourself from the get-go will often determine the long-term relationship you will achieve.

So where do you start? As with online dating, you have to create your “profile,” so what is your organization’s digital and/or direct mail profile? How do you present yourself and create that first impression that leaves them with an interest in getting to know you? The first step is meeting them where they are and getting them to notice you.

Utilizing direct response tools to help you build and cultivate a new audience of donors is an opportunity to use channels that can really get noticed. These digital natives expect you to be equally fluent in digital formats, but that might not be the best way to get their attention at the start. Email, by the time the Millennials came of age, was already a dying form of communication (if you ask them) as texting rose to the forefront of quick and seamless communications. This has been augmented by social media and online engagement with not only their friends, but also commercial, social- and service-oriented platforms. Despite being a supposedly “dying” channel, email boxes are beyond saturated with content, especially throughout pandemic, and it has created a reasonable degree of constituent fatigue. 

Just think for yourself personally — how many unopened emails did you delete today?

So how do you get recognized or noticed in this overwhelming inbox environment? Maybe it’s time to step back again and take an old school (or “OG,” as the kids would say) approach with the actual mailbox.

Reverting to a traditional print mail strategy might seem old-fashioned, but perhaps, as they say, everything old is new again. Millennials and Generation Y are the ideal target to receive something in the mail because there is nothing else in that mailbox to begin with. If you, as their university, fraternity, food bank, animal welfare shelter or museum of choice are writing to them personally, you might have some pretty high-value real estate as the only piece of mail they received that day.

But — just like dating — don’t start with a marriage proposal. You need to get to know them first with a little bit of dating and time spent not only telling them about yourself but learning a little bit about them as well. Today’s donors are also today’s consumers and they have come to expect a personalized journey — whether it’s in their online shopping cart or with your fundraising solicitation.

This younger generation is in no rush to commit. They want to get to know you. So, you are going to need to give this new relationship some time to develop and grow. Don’t assume just because you got that first date (or gift) that they are ready to settle down. New donors to your organization might just be playing the field and checking out their options so how you treat them will play a large role. You want to make them feel special (say thank you!), but you also want them to know that you are listening and paying attention to what is important to them. That includes everything from their communication channel and cadence preferences to the topics you share with them.

And finally, remember that fundraising needs to be fun, too. So, keep that in mind as you build out messaging and campaign strategies. A gift to your organization is a serious thing, but it’s important to ensure that your donors actually enjoy your company. So, give some thought to your messaging, tone and brand. You can do serious work on important causes, but that doesn’t mean you have to take yourself too seriously.

Just like this article, it’s ok to be a little silly while still getting your point across. So use these tips to get your donors to swipe right for you!