In my fantasy philanthropy world, organizations make commitments to their donors. Organizations guide their work through these commitments.
I like the idea of formalizing these commitments into policies and processes. To me, this intentional act of formalizing includes strategic conversations at various levels within the organization.
For example, if I were trying to formalize the concept of donor-centrism, I would engage all staff in conversations. I would engage the board’s fund development committee in conversation. And, yes, I would engage the full board in a conversation. Maybe it’s a 10–15 minute conversation at a regular board meeting. Maybe it’s a longer conversation at the annual board retreat.
After the conversations, I want some action. That commitment thing.
Back in 2008, my co-author Tom Ahern and I developed a “donor-centric pledge” for our book, Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
I use this donor-centric pledge (DCP) to test the donor-centric quotient (DCQ) of my clients. I do the same when presenting all over the world.
I urge you to test your organization’s DCQ with the DCP presented right now in this column. Engage your staff, fund development committee, and board by asking questions about this donor-centric pledge. Consider the following questions:
- Do you (and all the you’s in the conversation) understand what the statement means? And can you sell the statement to others?
- How well does your organization perform against the statement/the standard?
- What do you have to improve?
So, here goes:
The Donor-Centric Pledge
We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe that…
- Donors are essential to the success of our mission.
- Gifts are not “cash transactions.” Donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks and wallets.
- No one “owes” us a gift just because our mission is worthy.
- Any person who chooses to become our donor has enormous potential to assist the mission.
- Having a program for developing a relationship with that donor is how organizations tap that enormous potential.
- We waste that potential when donors are not promptly thanked.
- “Lifetime value of a donor” is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate “return on investment” in fundraising.
- Donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.
- Acquiring first-time donors is easy, but keeping those donors is hard.
- Many first-time gifts are no more than “impulse purchases” or “first dates.”
- We’ll have to work harder for the second gift than we did for the first.
- A prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.
- Donors want to have faith in us, and it’s our fault if they don’t.
- Donors want to make a difference in the world—and our mission is one of many means to that end.
- Donors are investors. They invest in doing good. They expect their investment to prosper, or they’ll invest somewhere else.
- We earn the donor’s trust by reporting on our accomplishments and efficiency.
- Individual donors respond to our appeals for personal reasons we can only guess at.
- Asking a donor why she or he gave a first gift to us will likely lead to an amazingly revealing conversation.
- Fundraising serves the donors’ emotional needs as much as it serves the organization’s financial needs.
- We are in the “feel good” business. Donors feel good when they help make the world a better place.
- A prime goal of fundraising communications is to satisfy basic human needs, such as the donor’s need to feel important and worthwhile.
- The donor’s perspective defines what is a “major gift.” (For example, a repeat donor of $25 annual gifts who suddenly increases her gift ten-fold to $250 is making a major commitment that deserves special acknowledgement.)
- Every first gift can open a door to an entirely new world for the donor through participation in our cause.