LightQuest Media

Find hers, Keep hersThe female donor will respond to this.

According to a recent poll, the average American woman…we’ll just stop right there. There is no average. No norm. No standard for a female.

For every poll that says most women enjoy a night out, there’s a poll saying they prefer staying in. If one loves George Clooney, the other loves Jim Carrey. For every avid purse buyer, there’s an avid shoe shopper. For every credit card diva, there’s a woman with a perfectly balanced bank account. For every supporter of mayonnaise, there’s a believer in mustard.

In other words, one-size-fits-all only applies to t-shirts. And even those don’t fit so well.

To understand the complexity of the female donor, we asked the female expert Michele Miller, author of Unzipped: a portable guide to the anatomy of the female customer and founder of the award-winning blog, WonderBranding.com, to unlock the mysteries of the female mind.

Or at least do what she does best, unzip it a little.

We sat down on the information superhighway with Miller and shared an intimate email about how media ministries can understand, obtain, and maintain the female donor.

You mention in the very beginning of your book that women are “different”. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking information (who do we think posts on YouTube all those kittens playing with yarn videos?), but for many media ministries it may be. What are they possibly doing in their media messages that ignores this fact and could be stopping women from actively supporting their work?

I wouldn’t necessarily say media ministries are ignoring the fact women’s brains are wired differently. They just haven’t had all the information they need.

There are two aspects of communicating with women that every ministry should be aware of:

  1. Women don’t think in the linear fashion of men, they think more in terms of a puzzle, or how seemingly different pieces of information fit together to provide information or a solution.
  2. Women also have different value systems. They may arrive at the same decision to support a cause, but arrived there via different paths.
    For example:  You are raising money for a mission trip. Don’t just talk about the money you need. Give women a clear, rounded picture of the mission.  Some women will be attracted to the humanity (actual people stories); others will be attracted to the cutting-edge technologies used; some other women will be attracted by the trip’s organization.

We’re absolutely mad about bullet points. Can you give us the top five “don’t”s for ministries or charities when trying to attract the female donor?

DON’T assume women are a soft touch. They need to validate their contribution through information.

DON’T slap pink on your marketing and think that will attract women. Most women are attracted to bold, vibrant colors that symbolize life and energy.

DON’T get stuck in the rut of “passing around the hat”. Women want to see an organization that’s well organized and well versed in business concerns.

DON’T assume marketing to women is only marketing to women. She’s making decisions for her entire family.

DON’T fall into the trap of old-fashioned thinking about women. Some of the savviest women out there are CEO’s and owners of large companies.  You can talk to them straight without having to worry about losing their attention.

Since you are a woman – you mysterious gender you – what motivates you, Michele Miller, to donate your hard earned cash to a cause you consider worthy?

I tend to fall into two basic personality categories – that of the humanistic, combined with some of the guardian.  I am moved by stories of organizations that change lives and communities, but there are thousands of those out there.  What makes me pull out my checkbook is a sense that this organization has all its operational ducks in a row, and that the mass majority of funding is going directly to the mission (not operational expenses). And after I make a contribution, updates on the project (without constantly being hounded for more money) make me feel that my investment was a worthwhile one.  I’ll definitely give more down the road if that happens.

A 2008 study by Texas A&M University found that, while men gave more to groups closer to home, women gave equally to local, national or even international studies. They spread their financial love around. That creates a large pool of charities vying for the female donor. How does one stand out among all the rest?

As I said before, a charity has to work hard to get my attention.  Most charities don’t raise as much money as they could because they focus solely on the humanitarian portion of the project.  Those charities that operate like a well-oiled business and provide information about structure, strategy, and finances to a potential donor are the most successful.  That, plus promised follow-up reports are critical.

The best organization out there right now that’s doing this is Children International. I have been sponsoring a young girl in the Philippines for nearly five years. Communication is constant, and the organization is always sending updates (without asking for contributions). Because of this, I have increased my support threefold.

Marketing is in a constant flux. Is there a new evolution coming for marketing to women? And are they going to like it?

The evolution is here – social media.  Creating communities online is the key to success of any marketing plan, including charities.  Charities could save an enormous amount of money in postage and printing by developing an online community for their donors. Updates, and even conversations between donors, are very powerful.  Kiva.org is one of the best at this.

Just think about it – 32% of women who shop online say they trust the online opinions of COMPLETE STRANGERS.  Why wouldn’t that also work for charities?

Now that we have the top five “don’t”s, and because we’re still just crazy about those bullet points, can you give us the top five “do”s?

DO realize that women base their decisions on internal values, and that those values differ from woman to woman. You need to work very hard to create the whole picture for women, in order for them to contribute.

DO understand that the age of the Internet is just getting underway, along with communication technology now on mobile phones, etc. Now is the time to be creating communities and information delivery systems through technology in ways that are compelling and keep donors committed to the cause.

DO make your organization as cost-efficient and operationally excellent as possible. That is just as attractive as the humanitarian part of your cause.

DO work hard to bring donors together, whether in person or online, as often as possible in order to give them an opportunity to have conversations about what the organization is doing, and to offer suggestions for improvement. We’re talking a web-like organization here, not the traditional “top down” group.

DO remember that women control 80 cents of every dollar in North America.  By focusing on them as your major target, don’t worry about losing men…believe me, when men see a charity or ministry that’s growing and thriving, they’ll follow women donors right into the circle of success.

And, lastly, how will the current and ongoing recession affect the female donor? What can ministries do to help them stay committed?

The biggest thing ministries can do is to stop thinking of women as donors and think of them as a community. It’s not a “one-way ask” anymore. It has to be about conversation. Dialogue is key. A woman has to feel that she not only gives, but that she belongs. If she feels that, she’ll stay committed to the organization.


Thanks Michele. This is great stuff. We hope the marketing tips will be a great benefit to the ministries looking to garner committed support. And we appreciate you sharing your time and expertise.

As a side note, please ignore the pink “thank you” basket arriving today by UPS. We didn’t send that. We sent you a…um…oh look over there! It’s a cute kitten!

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