Fundraising is a balancing act.
You need both the analytical and the emotional to be successful. Your data matters – a lot. But so do your donors.
It’s easy to focus more on asking for money and less attention on thanking people. The money’s in the ask, right?
Not so much, really.
We talk about “stewardship”. But stewardship is just a fancy way to say caring. And how you treat your donors reflects your organization and its values. Do you care about your donors? Or do you care only about their money?
Your goal should be building a caring community around your mission. Do that, and the money will follow. You need to begin with the heart.
Care before you ask
Your potential donors need to know about you to care about your mission. But think about how you present yourself to the public. Resist the urge to brag about your achievements. Instead, focus on the why of your organization. And offer ways people can become involved.
That could be as simple as learning more. Or watching a video. Sharing a post, coming to a meeting, taking a survey. There are countless creative ways to open your doors to new people. But as you consider how to engage potential supporters, do it with care.
How will this feel to them? What will they get from the interaction? Will it further their interest? Make them feel good about themselves? Teach them something new?
Of course, you want to design this critical area to succeed for your organization. And you will track engagement metrics and collect data. But you also want this to be the beginning of a caring relationship.
The first time you ask for a gift
Approach this first ask with a full heart. Assume the best of your potential donor.
Think about emotional triggers. For instance, flattery is powerful, but it can fall flat if you don’t believe it yourself. Technique should work for caring, not on its own. Your organization has needs, but so does your potential donor. Be aware of those needs and do your best to fill them.
The first time you thank a donor for their gift
Of course, you know that thanks need to be genuine and emotional. This is not about a tax receipt.
But can you hand-write a personal note to every donor? Only if you have a small list. So you do need systems. The key is to be sure the system is serving the donor as well as the organization.
Use your data to make the thanks as personal as possible. Add a field for answering any questions or responding to comments. And invite the new donor to contact a real person at your organization.
Answer honestly: how many thank you letters have you received that left you feeling all warm and glowing? Yeah, same here. But that’s your goal.
Because a donor gives to solve a problem, right a wrong… to care. And they should have that care given to them in return – many times over.
Caring is sharing – information and stories
If you don’t have a donor newsletter, you should consider one. Not a public relations piece. A caring piece that lets donors see the impact of their gift. A way for donors to share in the mission and feel part of it.
We’re all eager to feel we’ve done something good. Donors want that feeling of connection to the work. And you know that the donors who feel that connection will continue to give.
Begin a beautiful relationship
You will need to care for your data in order to care for your donors. And you will need to set up systems to make fundraising possible.
But be thoughtful about it. Set it and forget it sounds great. But you – and your donors – will be missing something critical in the act of asking and giving help. Something that’s deeply human.
Care for yourself as well as your donors. Intentionally reconnect with your organization’s work. Befriend program staff, talk to beneficiaries, understand your organization’s mission and its values.
Because your every day is about caring. And it should fill you, too.