To the Point: Be Generous to Inspire Generosity
I lived in Ukraine a few years ago, and a friend who just returned from there told me a great story that holds the secret to inspiring generosity. Really.
My friend was eating breakfast at a pricey hotel frequented by his international agency. Two beverages came with the breakfast package. He ordered the first: a double espresso. Toward the end of his meal, he ordered another.
"No, sorry, you can't have one," the waiter said.
"I thought two drinks come with the set breakfast price," my friend said.
"That is correct," the waiter said.
"But I only had one beverage."
"You had a double espresso. That counts as two," the waiter responded. (I am not making this up. I swear.)
My incredulous friend asked to see the manager. As he waited and his double espresso dose of caffeine pumped through his agitated system, he became more and more angry. The manager eventually materialized, and my friend pointed out the obvious: He was mad. He couldn't believe that one strong coffee counted as two drinks. Or that his agency spends thousands and thousands of ?dollars at this hotel yet he was being squeezed for a few dollars more for an absurd reason.
"Do you want my business ever again, or do you want to charge me for this coffee?" he asked.
The manager wisely instituted an all-you-can-drink espresso policy for my friend.
The moral of this story is penny(or hryvna)-wise is pound foolish. Or, put in a more positive light, generosity yields generosity.
When we treat our donors like walking wallets, they'll get mad and leave us. When we lavish them with a ?generous spirit and excellent service, they'll stay with us. What do I mean by a generous spirit? Here's your checklist.
1. Give away. Give away everything you can, and it will pay off. For example, at Network for Good, we give away free training, newsletters, and fundraising and marketing tips. Our sales and customer service staffs give generously of their time, never rushing someone off the phone. This makes quite a few people love us — and they go on to buy, recommend or evangelize our paid services. Which pays off in the long run. If we tried to nickel-and-dime nonprofits, they would not feel the same way and we'd have fewer funds in the long run. Keep this approach in mind if you're a membership or services organization.
2. Give thanks. Spend a lot more time thanking donors and reporting on their impact than asking them for more money. Make them feel treasured rather than going after their treasures. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The No. 1 reason donors quit supporting an organization is how they were treated by the organization. They hate too many appeals, not enough thanks and a lack of information on impact.
3. Give credit. It's not enough to be grateful. Give your donors the credit for everything you do. Don't say, "With your donation, we did xyz;" say, "You did xyz." Don't say, "We're so great;" say, "You're so great." Tell your donors they are doing good works every day of the week through their support of you. This turns donors into owners of your mission, and you can't get more powerful than that.
So back to the Ukrainian waiter. He was looking at the customer as someone who was costing the hotel money and therefore should be squeezed for every dime. We tend to look at donors in a similar way. We think donors are people from whom to extract value. That is wrong. We should instead show them value, over and over, and the money will follow. Have you heard the expression you should do what you love and the money will follow? In this case, you should give love (and appreciation), and the money will follow.
And in that spirit of generosity, thank you. Your work this year made the world a better place, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to praise you for it. Would you like a double espresso? You sure deserve it.
Katya Andresen ?is chief operating officer at Network for Good. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org