You like me

Published by Mary Lynn Lalonde on

What’s not to like about our donors?

Sally Field is almost as famous for her 1985 Academy Award-acceptance speech for Places in the Heart as she is for her entire acting career: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me,” she gushed. “Right now, you like me.”

Flash forward to 2013 and thanks to Facebook, we all get a chance to be Sally Field on our very own stage nearly every day.sally-field-you-like-me

Your status updates invite validation. Everything from your vacation pictures, to your new shoes, to the dumplings you had for lunch, encourage others to like it and, by association, like you.

As of August 2013, there had been 1.13 trillion likes on Facebook since its launch.

We humans are a needy bunch. We like to be liked.

So, if we recognize this, shouldn’t we be spending more time telling our donors how much we like and value them? After all, they are the ones who are backing the research, finding the cures, feeding the children, and keeping our lights on.

Without them, we’d be nothing. So what’s not to like?

My organization is in the midst of completing a year-long multi-country mystery shopping project in which we’ve been monitoring our own and other people’s donor communications cycles. You can do it in your market, too. Just sign up as a monthly donor via a number of channels and then watch what happens.

But prepare yourself. It’s a sobering exercise. You might not like what you see.

Despite all the lip service paid to donor-centric communication over the years, there’s still a load of same-same self-serving drivel out there. And that’s if we manage to capture their data correctly the first time they give…but that’s another story.

Too much about us. Not enough about them. A barrage of asks with barely a thank you.

It makes you wonder what we’re training donors to expect from their giving experience. It’s a wonder they don’t retreat to their rooms and hide their money under their mattresses.

A lot of donor communications sounds like a bad date with someone who won’t stop talking about themselves. Or an engineer who’s desperate to tell you how the engine is made when all you care about is that the car is fun to drive.

Over the course of a year of communication, there’s precious little out there that makes donors feel like we really and truly like them. Few genuine magic moments where they get to bask in the glow of being a good person.

The sad thing is that the solution isn’t all that complicated. Most of the communications we saw in our mystery shopping exercise could go from tragic to magic with just a few easy tweaks.

ws_I_Like_You_2560x1600Like using the donor’s favourite magic word: You. Or using volunteers to pen a personal message on a welcome letter. Or looking for occasions to say thanks, without any strings attached. Relationship building means spending less time contemplating our own navels and more time thinking about what truly delights the people who support us.

How about this email gem from UNICEF Australia, with the subject line reading: “You’ve got a secret admirer.” The body copy reads: “It’s us. We’re your secret admirer. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, we wanted to let you know you make our heart skip a beat. There are many children around the world who no longer suffer and who feel safe and loved because of the work you make possible. So thank you. Have a lovely day.”

If life had a like button, I bet the donor would be clicking it now.

Mary Lynn Lalonde

Mary Lynn Lalonde loves it when the good guys win. That’s why she’s dedicated a lot of her life to raising money and profile for worthy causes, including UNICEF, where she’s now the Global Pledge Fundraising Stewardship Specialist in Geneva. She’s done a lot of stuff but she’s distinctly uncomfortable with self-promotion because she’s Canadian.


Hollie Devlin · September 2, 2013 at 17:21

Exactly on the mark and so well said!!

Caroline C. · September 2, 2013 at 17:33


Melanie · September 2, 2013 at 17:34

“A lot of donor communications sounds like a bad date with someone who won’t stop talking about themselves”.

Too true. I think many of us are guilty of that.

Sheri · September 2, 2013 at 18:06

Nicely said! And bang-on, as always.

Jillian · September 2, 2013 at 18:13

Mary Lynn’s words are, as ever, eloquent, hilarious, and completely correct.

Valentines Day Fundraisers for Booster Clubs · February 3, 2014 at 06:16

[…] an example of a Valentine’s day thank you email from UNICEF Australia, which we found in a blog post by Mary Lynn […]

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