Knowing Your Audience Isn’t “Elementary” … It’s EVERYTHING.



I talk a lot about getting to know your audience. Knowing who it is you’re talking to changes everything.

Some folks ask me, “um, isn’t that a little obvious and basic?”

My answer to this question is two-fold.

Yes, in the purest sense of the word, it is basic, and it should be obvious.

And also, don’t be so cocky.

There certainly are great fundraisers out there who know their donors. They’ve done the work to read the little handwritten notes that get sent in along with cheques. They’ve creeped on the Facebook pages of that one guy who likes every single thing they post. They’ve taken the time to sit down with new donors over a coffee.

They have a donor database that they actually use. Consistently. To track important information.

But for every fundraiser who does the diligent work of getting to know who is on the other end of the envelope, there are many who don’t. Some don’t have the time, or the tools, or the authority to do what needs to be done to put their donors first. That is a rant for another time.

But some simply make assumptions.

And you know what they say about making assumptions…

You’ll make an ass of yourself. And the ump will shun you.

No, that isn’t quite right.

When you assume, you make an ass of you and me.

When you assume you know your donors, a lot of very bad things can happen.

The worst of all? Your envelope goes unopened. Or if opened, it fails to connect.

My mantra in the work I do comes from Lou Reed – I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know.

We need to be mirrors for our donors. We need to show them that our mission is their worldview.

But we also need to be windows for our donors. They not only need to see that they can see themselves in the work they are making happen with their donations, but they need to see beyond to the change that they will make possible with their continued support of our organisation.

We live in a world that allows us to collect an inordinate amount of data. But too often, we don’t. Or we use it poorly. Or, we don’t use what we can at all.

If we don’t know our donors first, our mirror is like one from a carnival funhouse… nice for a laugh, but does little to help us get ready for the day.

So yes. Knowing your audience is a pretty basic concept. But basic, as in it needs to be a strong base for anything and everything we do. It may seem like common sense, but let’s be honest… common sense isn’t all that common, is it?