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    By Drew Fox Jordan • January 20, 2022

    Here's What Fundraisers Need To Know About Development Communications

    Here's What Fundraisers Need To Know About Development Communications

    Development communications (DevComm) is the distinct discipline used by nonprofits to achieve their fundraising goals.

    DevComm shares many common characteristics with other forms of communications but is distinguished by its focus on affecting the behavior of key audiences. In particular, the development communications professional is concerned with supporting "giving behavior," either making a first gift or continuing to make gifts over time.

    When we practice this discipline, we measure success on whether we have encouraged people to do something, give, or become a philanthropist, even in a small way.


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    Over the long haul, we strive to secure donor loyalty and build strong relationships between our organization and our supporters.

    Development communications and journalism

    Many DevComm professionals begin their careers as journalists. This is understandable because both fields require good writing, excellent research skills, and overall communication capabilities. However, in theory, the journalist should not advocate for any one organization or cause. By contrast, that is exactly what the development communications person is! Their job is to create an information environment where people feel comfortable contributing time or treasure to a cause.

    Development communicators should always be truthful, like journalists, but it is not our job to "tell both sides of the story." Instead, our job is to support the fundraising function of our organization by emphasizing accurate, positive information about our mission and accomplishments.

    Development Communications and Creativity

    Serving the fundraising function is not a license to produce tedious work.

    Suppose you write a donor profile because they have made a substantial gift to your university. If the lead essentially says, "Rich person gives money to a wealthy university," who would want to read that (other than the donor and their family)?

    On the other hand, what if the lede says, "It was 1999, and the Dot Com bubble was bursting. Phil Anthropy's father had lost most of his savings, and Phil never thought he would make it to college. Then he heard from the University that he was receiving the Don Ation Scholarship. So, having sold his virtual reality company to Google for a tidy sum, Phil wants to give back."

    People give money to people to help other people. Tell a good story about philanthropy (or any other topic), and an audience will gather around to listen. Also, a reader of this mythical article might identify with Phil and think, "I know what Phil went through. I did, too, and I can emulate him now that I have some capacity to give."

    Development communicators should always be truthful, like journalists, but it is not our job to "tell both sides of the story." Instead, our job is to support the fundraising function of our organization by emphasizing accurate, positive information about our mission and accomplishments.

    Beyond telling a good story, remember that we live in an over-communicated society, and it's hard to get the attention of your key audiences, so you have to be creative and think outside the box. For example, think of a YouTube video that might go viral, try Giving Tuesday as a forum for getting your constituency involved, look at other forms of crowdfunding, and see if they might work for you.

    Don't be afraid to try new things!

    Stewardship and Donor Relations

    Keeping your current donors is as important, if not more important, than acquiring new ones. Therefore, it would be best to have a plan for stewardship of gifts and ongoing donor relations, both of which are essentially communications projects. It all begins with a timely and enthusiastic "thank you" for a gift, large or small. The process continues as you, for example, update your donors about their scholarship gifts are being used, perhaps with profiles of the students who are benefiting from them.

    Organizations that want to succeed at development communications need a plan for these tasks and a leader who takes the job seriously.

    DevComm is just one part of an organization's greater communication strategy. Download Gravyty's complete guide to strategic communications and see how you can position communication strategy for success this year. Get your copy for free today:

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