Unraveling Development: Donors, Not Donations

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Do you treat your donors like ATM machines? I’ve heard donors say that you do.

Giving is not a financial transaction, but rather,one of the most personal acts anyone can make.

But too often, in the press for money, organizations focus on money rather than on donors. Be careful not to be that kind of organization. Treating giving like a financial transaction is a quick way to lose donors.

Keep this in mind: The purpose of fund development is to find donors, not donations. The smart organization would rather have a donor who has been giving $25 annually for 10 years than someone who will give you $500 today. The 10-year donor is loyal. Keep her. She’s telling others about you. Nurture the relationship better and she may give you more money when she’s able. And donor loyalty drives bequest giving, too.

Remember, donors are not just interchangeable money sources. Donors give to you for reasons you can only guess at. Don’t guess. Ask them why they give!

My colleague Richard Radcliffe, legacy guru from the U.K., says that the most important question we can ask a donor is: Why did you first give? (By the way, if you ever have a chance to hear Richard Radcliffe speak, do it! Richard is insightful, focused, and very funny. And he’s spoken with thousands of donors through personal interviews and focus groups.)

Adrian Sargeant’s (author of Building Donor Loyalty) research reinforces Richard’s comment: You need to know why donors started giving to your organization. In fact, Sargeant goes on to say that probing why a he or she made that first gift is essential in determining whether you can develop a relationship with that donor.

Giving is about the donor, not about your organization or your cause. Your organization is the conduit by which donors live out their interests and fulfill their aspirations. No two donors are alike. And you need to know their interests and disinterests, their motivations and aspirations.

Test yourself right now. What do you know about your donors? Do you know what excites your most loyal donors and what annoys them? Do you know the different interests of different donors?

It’s time to build a donor-centered organization. And if your donor-centric quotient is already pretty high, aim even higher!

Read Kay Sprinkel Grace’s e-book Donor-Driven Philanthropy. Download at www.simonejoyaux.com.

Read Seth Godin’s Blog, The Agitator, and donorpowerblog. Subscribe for free. Read daily and learn.