The other day my friend showed me a piece of mail she received from an anti-human trafficking organization that she donates to.
The main headline screamed: “The Murder Conviction That Couldn’t Have Happened Without You!”
The next headline announced: “You Rescued Two Boys from the Lake Volta Fishing Industry!”
“Goodness!” my friend said. “My monthly donation certainly gets a lot done.”
Those of us who work in donor communications talk a lot about being “donor centric” and “making the donor the hero.” Yes, yes, yes—a thousand times yes. Put the donor at the center. Make them the hero! Yes.
But, here’s an equally important message we need to be talking about: Be sincere.
My friend did not rescue two boys from slavery in the fishing industry. Her 50 bucks a month did not make that murder conviction happen.
I get what the organization is trying to do. They’re trying to show their donors love and give them credit for good work that’s happening. And that’s all great. It’s far better than no donor love at all. My friend is going to continue donating. But she and I both rolled our eyes at the over-the-top claims of those headlines.
If a compliment is insincere, doesn’t it lose effectiveness?
Several weeks ago, my teenage son made dinner for the family. It was disgusting.
Me, the peacemaker, tried to smile and find positive things to say while I pushed the food around on my plate. My husband, the straight-forward one, suggested to our son that he should follow a recipe the next time. Which was the more loving thing to do?
I think my husband’s honest approach was better than my insincere compliments. I mean, everyone at the table knew it was gross so there was no sense lying about it.
My son has cooked three more meals for our family since that time. He used a recipe. And you know what? They’ve been legitimately good. One was even great! Now, when my husband compliments him, he knows the compliment is sincere. Me, he might not believe.
So let’s go back to those donor-centric-but-ridiculous headlines and rewrite them with donor love AND sincerity.
Before: The Murder Conviction That Couldn’t Have Happened Without You! After: You Helped Put A Child Predator Behind Bars!
Before: You Rescued Two Boys from the Lake Volta Fishing Industry!”
After: These Two Boys Want To Say Thank You For Their Freedom.
My rewrites are not as dramatic, I realize. But they’re more honest. And people are sensitive to B.S. aren’t they? We’re constantly being flattered by marketers who want our money. So here’s a refreshing way to stand out: be sincere.