Is it a recognition that fundraising should be about relationships, not transactions?
It can mean a lot of things. But today, I want to say it’s about recognition, respect and shared values.
Not everyone is your potential donor.
The people who do choose your cause are special people. (And I say “cause” intentionally – donors give to change something in the world. Your organization is a means to their end.)
And the people who might choose you are also special people.
Have you tried to figure out what makes them special? What drives them to believe in the mission and the impact your organization promises?
What have you done to find out? Called to talk with donors? Sent a donor survey? Asked for feedback at several points in their interaction with your organization? In short, have you asked what makes them special?
And when you do have some idea who your donors are, do you act on that?
If you think you know your donors, do you treat them like special people? Or are they allowed to feel more like ATMs?
How personal are your communications? If you know about particular donors’ motivations, do you take those into account when you communicate? Do you segment your list carefully?
Do you at least take care about personalization and donor preferences?
Or does a gift simply trigger the next ask?
When a donor lets you know that she’d prefer one annual request, do you honor that – or ignore it because… what a pain?
When a donor asks not to be contacted by phone, do you make sure your callers do not make that call? Even if that’s what they first responded to?
Keep in mind – always – that your donors are under no obligation. Unlike you, this isn’t their job. It might not even be their true calling. So it’s really foolish to ever take a gift for granted. It’s always appropriate to respond with sincere gratitude.
Donors usually don’t ask for or expect much from us. But consider the flood of requests all of us are getting now. Wouldn’t it be smarter – and more respectful – to pay attention?
Go beyond expectations.
This is where your mindset changes from ATM to partner. Yes, you need donations to support your mission.
But in the long-run, unless you’re swimming in cash and can afford the churn and burn of largely acquisition-powered fundraising, you need partners.
Donors probably don’t start out giving to your organization in particular. They’re probably attracted to your cause. To a chance to improve something or stop something. They want to feed people, or stop a terrible disease, or make great theater possible in their community.
But with good recognition and respect – with good donor care – they will begin associating your organization with the cause that matters to them. Then when you treat them well they’re more likely to stick around.
When you treat them as partners in the cause – not just funders – they start to think of themselves that way, too.
Does the way you relate to your donors express those values? Do you assume only employees are really passionate about the cause? Or only donors giving a certain amount?
You could be right. There are a number of donors who care about a lot of issues.
But you don’t have anything to lose by offering the benefit of the doubt. See them, treat them as partners. And partners without a paycheck are due extra gratitude, don’t you think?
Donor love is serious stuff
Donor love is easy to write off as so much squishy stuff. But…
Squishy stuff matters. Decisions – including giving decisions – are made with our heart. And communicating with genuine emotion is the way to reach people who might give to your organization.
Donors may be tolerant, but they’re not stupid. And it’s hard to fake real emotion. So you have to get squishy, too, if you want to move people to give and keep giving. Passionate, messy, emotional.
You’re never going to argue people into a gift.
And if that’s not enough, consider that treating donors well definitely affects your bottom line. There’s a lot of competition out there. Be the organization that respects donors. Be the organization that wants to know their donors and wants to get more good work done by inviting people in. The whole person, not just the money.
Try it for a year, then put the green eye-shades on and see what happens.
Loving your donors means loving the people who want to help.