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Why Your Nonprofit Needs an Imaginary Friend

Updated on September 27, 2012

I was always a little jealous of the kids that had imaginary friends. I never had one. Maybe it was because I was well loved and adjusted or maybe it was just that even imaginary friends thought I was a loser. Either way, imaginary friends were cool! They always played whatever you wanted to play, they were always there when you needed them, and they listened like crazy to whatever you had to say.

What This Has To Do With Fundraising

A few days ago, I told you how to fix your online fundraising by building online relationships through social media. But that's only part of the picture. You need relationships with the right people. Otherwise you're wasting valuable time. You can't find the rightpeople without knowing what they look like. You need an imaginary friend.

Find Your Imaginary Donor

The first step to building relationships with the right people is to find your imaginary donor. Plato fans might call him or her the ideal donor. Maybe you already have an ideal donor. Maybe you've got someone who tells everyone they know about the cause, donates 50% of their income every month, and volunteers 20 hours a week to write thank you notes to your other donors. If you don't have one, get an imaginary one. What would that person look like inside and out. Are they male or female? What are their greatest hopes and fears? Where do they live? How old? And so on and so forth. Flesh that person out as much as you possibly can. Give them a name if you want. Write a story about them to help you develop their character. Anything to solidify their image in your mind. Just like people you know in real life, you'll never know everything about your ideal donor. You have to keep developing your imaginary relationship. The more you know about them, the better.

Write Everything Directly To Your Ideal Donor.

Once you've created your ideal donor, write everything you publish online like it was to them. Imagine that you're sitting on a park bench with them chatting about what's going on in the organization. Do this every time you sit down to write. Try to think of facial features, expressions, body language...anything that helps you visualize the exchange. Your imaginary donor isn't just a donor, they're someone near and dear to you and your cause. They're the best behaved donor you can possibly dream up. They're the cornerstone of your entire organization.

Don't Ever, Ever Write For Anyone Else

It's tempting to write to other donors. Don't do it! Writing to other people besides your ideal donor is a mistake. It's a waste of time. All you're doing is trying to cultivate relationships with people who'll just dump you in one way or another in the end. The thing about writing for your one ideal donor, is that it tends to attract the people that really jive with you and your cause. It also gets the people who might not have jived at first wanting to jive. They'll want you to talk to them the way you talk to your ideal donors. Do this and you'll create a online word-of-mouth fundraising machine!

So What's the Best Way to Find and Write To Your Imaginary Donor?

Offline, this is usually done with paper newsletters, or press releases, or appeal letters. Online, the best way to publish is a one-two-three punch with an e-newsletter, a blog, and user-generated content sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you can't do a one-two-three, do a one-two with an e-newsletter and a blog, and if you can't do that, just do an e-newsletter. I recommend one service and one service only for e-newsletters. As for social networks, you'll have to decide that for yourself. Find out where your ideal donor is and go there. If it's Facebook, do Facebook. If Twitter, Twitter. Whatever you decide, I recommend starting with just one or two of these sites at first. Each one has it's own culture and set of community rules. If you want any sort of return on your investment in these types of sites, you'll need to be a master.


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