Part 1: Inspire – what to say to supporters, even now

A key focus that fundraisers in our online training community, the Bright Spot Club, have been getting fabulous results through, is proactively seeking out more conversations with existing supporters.

But what should you say during these calls?

As always, the first thing to do, when in either a virtual or face to face conversation, is to care about and listen to the other person, find out how they’re doing.

Secondly, when it is your turn to talk, talk less about your charity and its problems, and more about your beneficiaries and their problems. It’s the latter that your supporters really care about.

But if we’re go into this into a little more depth, what could you say that is most likely to inspire your supporters..?

For ongoing help, check out Bright Spot Club 

The Bright Spot Members Club is a learning and inspiration site and community to help fundraisers stay positive and keep learning. Find out more here.

Five to Thrive

Here are five specific things to be able to say that will help your supporters be interested and care, which is an abbreviated version of The Magic Formula that I teach on our Mastery Programmes and in the Bright Spot Members Club.

  • Be able to point out what’s not immediately obvious (about the beneficiaries’ problem).
  • Be able to explain how your charity is responding to help your beneficiaries now, even if you don’t know this in detail.
  • Be able to share real examples.
  • Find some ways to show impact, even if they’re not perfect.
  • Be able to mention the support you’re receiving from other wonderful supporters like them.

To keep it to a manageable length, in this blog I’m going to explore just the first two points and will cover the last three in Part 2.

  • Be able to point out what’s not immediately obvious.

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath talk about how human beings have internal ‘guessing machines’ that unconsciously predict what you are about to say. So if we only say things that the supporter already knew, that is, what we communicate is consistent with what they predicted, we rarely hold their interest for long.

One simple, powerful way to overcome this tendency is to deliberately say something that is not immediately obvious. It does not need to be astonishing, that they never could have worked out. Just an angle that may not have been top of mind until you mentioned it.

A key question to ask yourself:

‘What is not immediately obvious about the effect of the coronavirus on our beneficiaries?’

And if their life is made harder by the coronavirus situation, why is that?

For instance, my colleague Ben Swart explained on Episode 21 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast that supporters he talks to are intrigued and moved when he talks about the implications of the recent lockdown on children who live with someone that makes them feel unsafe. Not being able to go to school or work is hard enough for most of us, but its extraordinarily hard, even dangerous for people at risk of domestic or child abuse, especially when the people they live with maybe feeling greater levels of stress.

What’s the effect of social distancing on the people your charity serves?

If you are very ill and nearing the end of your life in a hospice or hospital, one thing that is harder than usual is the effect of the pandemic on visiting hours. For many patients in this situation, during this pandemic you can no longer surrounded by your loved ones. While many hospices are able to let people visit, where normally your family could be with you all the time if they want to, now the number of visitors has to be far fewer, and visiting hours have sometimes had to be restricted to a few hours a day. This is very difficult when you may be feeling more frightened and lonely than ever.

Do your beneficiaries rely on a particular medicine, regular check-ups, face to face counselling or kidney dialysis?

If your charity is a youth club, school, university, arts or research organisation, what is harder for those people who you usually serve? Loneliness, safety, anxiety, depression? And what will be harder once the lock-down is lifted, meaning it’s essential you’re there to help them?

The pandemic is hitting the world’s poorest people disproportionately hard. If your charity helps people overseas, what is especially hard for those people, if for instance they are migrant workers with no source of income now that their place of work has locked down? How will they feed their family?

One thing that’s difficult about answering these questions is that the answers may not seem exciting, in fact, they may be relatively obvious to you.

But they’re not necessarily obvious to your supporters. Be clear on and able talk them through these issues.

  • Be able to say what your charity is doing, especially now, to help your beneficiaries solve these problems?

Your solutions may be imperfect, but the chances are your colleagues are doing everything they can to respond. By pointing these things out to your supporter, you can show them they are contributing to something immediate.

For instance, Ben went on to explain that he has been telling supporters about how the organisation had to rapidly react to enable its ChildLine volunteer counsellors to answer calls from vulnerable children from their homes, rather than from the ChildLine offices. (Though some volunteers have been coming in to their usual offices, many them are older, and so more likely to be at particular risk of the coronavirus, so needed to take the calls from home.

The chances are your charity has recently had to change various things about how it carries out its mission. Arts organisations have done their best to deliver some value on-line, for example by streaming content and organising quizzes.

Be able to point out, in as concrete, practical, authentic way as possible, what your colleagues have been doing to help, or to prepare for the effects of the pandemic in the medium term. But for most donors (with the exception of many trusts) you don’t need or want too much detail, even on this topic.

In Part 2, I go into more depth on the last three ideas that will help you inspire supporters. Read that here.

Want to go deeper?

1. Check out Bright Spot Members Club

The Bright Spot Members Club is a learning and inspiration site and community to help fundraisers stay positive and keep learning. There are more than 300 members of the club who have been continuing to learn through training films, downloads and twice-weekly coaching calls throughout the crisis. Find out more here.

2. Or you can download my FREE E-book, Power Through The Pandemic – go to