I’m embarrassed to say it took me years to realize this.
I – like you, maybe – was filled with enthusiasm for my organization. That’s good. It’s really hard to do good work when you don’t feel that way.
But I let it color my fundraising perspective.
This lesson can come into play in so many ways.
- From details, when a design-minded staffer insists you use a sans serif font on every written word because that’s your brand. (It’s not. But that’s a whole other post.)
- Or when the board chair hates the letter he’s supposed to sign because it’s two pages long. And besides, his thinking is so much more complex. And why aren’t we talking about all our programs?
- Or when the finance office asks you to cut down on the thank you letters somehow to save postage.
You know better.
You know donors aren’t so much interested in your colors. Or your fancy font. They want to know how they matter.
And we all know that thanking people is not an option, it’s mission-critical.
And sometimes, it feels personal.
- When a frustrated donor calls and unloads on you.
- When four additional people arrive for that perfect dinner for 20 you’ve arranged and seated.
- When you’re asked to submit a grant without seeing a budget.
That stuff is hurtful or frustrating or infuriating. But take a deep breath.
Because if you care about the “why” of your organization, if you focus on the people you’ll help, then you can give it all a little separation.
It’s not about you.
It’s about doing good work. It’s about doing what’s right. It’s about your mission.
Of course, you can still go home at night and bitch. Have an extra piece of chocolate or glass of wine. You’re human, after all.
But as a fundraiser your job is to listen well, to insist on doing the right thing, not the easy thing, to welcome as many people as possible to be part of the mission.
Your job is to shorten the distance between donors and their vision of a better world.
And despite the day to day problems, that’s really a cool thing to do, isn’t it?
It helps to remember that as fond of them as you are, you’re not your donors.
You can’t use yourself to take their measure, or guess what they’ll respond to, or know what they like. Because you’re on the inside, your view is different. You see behind the curtain. And that forever changes your perceptions.
So what do you do then?
- Try donor surveys.
- Read the notes on response forms.
- Call to say thank you and listen well.
- Get to know them.
- Take advantage of the free feedback widget for your website from Donor Voice and get some real time information on their behavior.
P.S. It’s not about your organization, either.
Your organization is the best place in the world to those of you who work there. (Or I hope it is.)
But – and I’m sorry to break it to you – it’s probably not even in the top ten best things in your donors’ lives.
Your cause might be up there. But they’re interested in your impact, not your organization.
Show them you get things done. Show them you’re trustworthy. Show them you care about them.
And then your organization may become their trusted partner in a cause they care about.