I’ve been wondering lately if we’re taking the concept of “friend-raising” too literally.

And when the concept is taken too literally I believe the risk of offending prospects and donors increases. If we don’t offend them with this approach then there’s a good chance we at least annoy them.

How so?

Example #1 – a telemarketing script:

When you call a friend you say something like, “Hi, this is Karen. How are you today?” And my friend recognizes my name and my voice and off we go in our conversation.

But when calling a stranger – someone you don’t personally know – is that what you say on the phone? I don’t! Nor do I want people calling me with that approach. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening more and more in telemarketing calls from nonprofits (at least the ones I receive).

It’s annoying when I have to ask two or three times who it is I’m talking to. It certainly doesn’t warm me up to make a donation.

Example #2 – a direct mail letter:

A friend knows you. You don’t need to remind them why you’re friends, what you do or why you do it. You don’t need to say how long you’ve known each other or remind them when they last heard from you.

Well, okay. Sometimes with long distance friends we may say it’s been nearly a year since we last spoke … but hopefully you get my point.

In contrast when writing letters (including emails) to donors and prospects we need to include that information. We need to give lots of reasons why they ought to help. We dare not assume they remember everything we’ve told them. We dare not assume they read and listen as intently as a true personal friend does.

However, if you do assume they know you like a true friend knows you, then again you’re probably frustrating them and depressing response.

And here’s another BIG difference. Donors are NOT helping their “friend” who wrote the letter. They really don’t know you and besides, you’re not the one who needs the help.

Donors are helping a complete stranger. They’re helping the people your mission serves. They’re helping someone learn to read … to get an education … to rescue an animal … to buy hospital equipment they hope a family member will never need … to feed a family who lost their job. 

Now don’t jump to conclusions!

I firmly believe your phone calls, direct mail letters, emails, social media updates, text messages, videos, etc. all still need to be warm and friendly. You need to write in a casual conversational style, etc., etc.

Just be clear on who you’re communicating with and what your true relationship is with them. Think of them as a stranger you just met and would like to get to know better. And over time as your warmth, friendliness and compelling copy inspire them to give and give again . . . these donors become absent-minded acquaintances.  But I still don’t see them as a friend.

Taking the concept of “friend-raising” too literally and to the extreme some nonprofits are doing … runs the risk of annoying, offending, or driving away supporters.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree or disagree with me? Please add a comment below and let’s get a friendly discussion going among strangers.

Ready to digest more on this? Read these related posts:

We really don’t know you

Do donors and members want to connect with you emotionally?

Help the world one donor at a time