5 ways to dive into the mind of an environmental donor

Environmental organizations are, regrettably, low on the list of nonprofit donation lists.

The latest data from the National Philanthropic Trust show that of individual charitable donations (72% of all donations are from individuals), religious nonprofits rake in the most at 31%, followed by education (16%), human services (12%) and grant-making foundations (11%).

If I did my math right, that leaves… well… not a lot to split between the rest of the all the great causes in the world.

So, as I’m sure you’re painfully aware, if you are trying to raise money for an environmental cause, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Here, I offer 5 ways to wiggle your way into the hearts and minds of your potential donors and, hopefully, increase your chance of winning a prospect over to the environmental side.

1. People inherently believe in science and technology.   science_labwork

This is one of my favorite methods for justifying a solid donation request. And environmental causes have a huge advantage in this category.

Why? Because most environmental efforts are backed up by… yup, you guessed it… science and technology!!

The key is, of course, to get your supporters to trust you. If they trust you as an organization, they’re likely to trust the science you support and lay claim to.

People believe in science. (Or, if you want to argue the finer points, people believe in the science they want to believe in.) Make your scientific claims strong, supportable, and relevant, and you’re half way there.

2. Tell a good story, and it will become part of your supporters actual memories.

Used in conjunction with the science thing mentioned above, you have a solid one-two punch of persuasion. As humans, we relate to and remember a story better than we do facts…up to 22 times more.

I love this statistic, because while it may sound wacky, it makes total sense. How many of us can replay a great movie scene by scene? How much of your favorite book do you remember, chapter and verse? My bet is a lot more than the financial report you read just last week that was probably full of facts and figures.

When we encounter a story, it becomes part of our own memories.

Tell a good story about your environmental cause. Tell us about the physical beauty of where you do your work, about a staff member who sacrificed a place on American Idol to spend their summer with you instead, about a volunteer who has been volunteering with you for 20 years, about the people who are being affected by your preservation work…

Find a good story in your organization, tell it right, and your supporters will remember you come donation time that much better.

3. Show, don’t tell.   

Writing in nature
What did I tell you? Captions get read. Make them count!


While this snazzy little one liner is used so much it’s almost lost its meaning, here I actually mean it a little differently.

Here, I mean… show us, in a picture!


We remember only 10% of what we read, but 30% of what we see. 

Environmental causes are wonderfully suited to great imagery. It’s remarkable what a picture of a stunning mountain peak will do for most of us.

Give us a great picture, with a great caption, and you’ll have wiggled into the minds of an extra 20% of your supporters.

4. Please, make it easy for us.

If I haven’t already demonstrated that we, as a species, have trouble retaining information, this one should do it.

An online study recently confirmed what many marketers already know.

Reading online is not exactly reading (regardless of what your teenager tries to tell you about their time on social media…).

We don’t actually read, we scan.

And to make it worse, we only actually read 28% of the words on a page.

Yikes. So, all those carefully crafted words on your website are great for the rare outlier who will read everything you post, but most of us are just reading the headlines and the captions under the pictures.

It’s up to you to make those headlines, captions, and maybe the first sentence or two of any given page terrific.

5. Take advantage of your prospect after they’ve become a donor.  

This may seem just downright rude. And a little sleazy.

After all, someone actually hit the Donate button and spent their money on you!

But… there are only a few times when you have a supporters’ complete undivided attention. During the donation process, the thank you email you send them, and the thank you page they land on after donating.

Now that they’ve proven they are a supporter… don’t let them go! Make sure they don’t become one of those “one-time-only” donors organizations like yours fear. Take advantage of that brief moment of undivided attention and hook them for good.

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