Giving Goes Both Ways
As fundraisers, we often understandably focus on the tremendous impact a donor’s gift makes on the people who benefit from our programs.
Disaster victims are being rescued. Hungry families are being fed. Sponsored children can go to school. Wounded veterans are getting a fresh start. Animals are saved from abuse. Cancer patients have new hope for a cure.
All that’s true. And vitally important. It’s why we do what we do, and it’s why what we do works.
But that view alone is one-sided. It implies that the benefit of giving (as life-changing as it is) only goes one way: from donor through the nonprofit to the recipient.
That only tells half of the important story.
Giving is indeed transformational. But I contend that the transformation goes both ways. Clearly it benefits the recipient of a nonprofit’s programs in countless ways as illustrated above. But it also benefits the donor.
The donor exchange
When donors give, they also receive.
- They receive the joy of making a difference.
- They receive the privilege of partnering with you to make the world just a little better.
- In giving, they receive a sense of increased significance in their lives that, more often than not, dwarfs the significance they receive by getting.
Not bad. In fact, you could argue that the significance donors receive may even outweigh the cost of the gifts they make.
And you and your nonprofit are in the middle of this beautiful exchange. You’re the bridge between the donor and those who benefit from the programs funded by the gift.
By offering people the chance to give — the possibility of making a positive difference in the world — you bring significance to their lives!
Ask with enthusiasm
So be honored to ask. Don’t soft-pedal the ask or shirk the opportunity. Don’t bashfully or reluctantly ask. It demeans your cause, and it undervalues the gift you are offering to donors. Proudly state your case. Enthusiastically invite donors to partner with your organization to make a difference.
Might you have one or two board members who seem reluctant to get involved in icky fundraising? Do some opine that you should cultivate donors less frequently? Turn their objections (and fears) on their heads. If you believe in your cause, it’s a privilege to ask. And it’s a privilege to give. If they don’t think so, perhaps they shouldn’t be on your board.
You have a wonderful opportunity to help them see that when you ask, you honor the donors and give them a chance to have more significance in their lives. You help them go with you where they cannot go on their own.
Who would want to deprive a donor of that joy?
Show donors what they accomplish
But there’s more to it than just asking, isn’t there? We need to not only ask unabashedly, but we must frequently provide smart, timely and consistent reports on what donors are accomplishing through their gifts and through your organization.
- Use your thank-you receipts to reinforce the impact of the gift.
- Fill your newsletters with stories and photos of lives transformed.
- Embed videos (or links) in your e-mails demonstrating the life-giving work of your donors’ dollars in action.
- Provide end-of-year summaries of all that the donors’ gifts have helped accomplish.
- Pepper your website with proof of the power of giving.
- Make your annual report more about donor impact than about your organization.
The beauty is that not only will these communications add significance to your donors’ lives and further reinforce their commitment to your work, but, if they’re done right, people will give even more to these communications as well.
Tom Harrison is chair of Russ Reid, chair of Omnicom’s Nonprofit Group and a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at email@example.com
Tom Harrison is the former chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He served as chair of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.