Collecting Donor Stories

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Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.

How’s that going?


Like an apple a day… A donor a day.

Call a donor. Tell her thank you. Ask her why she gave. Another day, another donor. Call him. Tell him how you used his gift. Ask him why he first gave.

How many donors stories has your organization collected? How many conversations do you have with donors every month? How many donor interviews have you conducted this year?

How many donor stories do you tell? In your newsletter. In your annual report. On your website. At your fundraising events.

Here’s a story that hospital colleague sent me this year:

“A donor of modest annual gifts – someone I’ve known here for 25 years – had been in the hospital last week. I called her at home to see how she was doing.

“After sharing her positive experience, she told me she has arranged to leave most of her estate to the hospital. She said she was doing so for two reasons: One, because she believes this is an excellent hospital. And two, ‘because when you call me to see how I’m doing, I know that is the real reasonyou’re calling, not to bug me for money.'”

Just imagine… The donor actually knows that this development officer genuinely cares about her. The donor knows that this development officer doesn’t see her as a means to an end.

Just imagine . . . This development officer realizes that giving isn’t about money. This development officer isn’t even looking for a gift.

What do your donors say about you?

She told me one day about her giving. I was writing a chapter in a book that is scheduled for release in 2011, called Philanthropy in 7 Words.

“Giving is about making meaning,” my friend told me. “And we can’t make meaning if we don’t empower ourselves.” That was the focus of our conversation, empowerment.

“How sad,” she said to me. “How sad not to feel like an actor, an agent of something in one’s own life and in one’s own world.”

So she gives. She gives to empower herself and to empower her son and daughter. She gives to empower all the disempowered. “Making the gift is making meaning. I demand to be an actor, an agent of change in my own life and in my own world.”

This story is a keeper, forever. What stories do your donors tell you? What stories do you save forever?

Good fund development is about stories . . . the donor’s stories, your client stories, stories about impact and making a difference.

Nonprofits are in the business of storytelling. How about this: Your job is to tell “stories that are too good to check.” Thanks to Neal Conan on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”