Fundraising: It's All About 'I' (Integrity, That Is)
I was speaking to a friend a few days ago; she's a major donor to an organization. She talked about how this organization doesn't listen to her preferences but instead keeps doing what it wants even though she has specifically asked the organization to stop. It's probably inexpensive for the folks at this organization to keep her "in the program," and this can certainly be justified — except she has said, "Don't do that."
"We view you as our partner and value our relationship" is the right attitude for a fundraiser. But it has to be practiced, not just proclaimed. In a healthy relationship, we listen to one another and don't always insist on having our way. So why is it that with donors, we can insist on doing things our way and ignore what the donor requests?
With the focus on donor relationship management, this should no longer be an issue. But based on this conversation (and other anecdotal experiences I have had with nonprofits), there is clearly room for improvement. Don't ask your donors to fall in line with your program; instead, align your program with their wishes. Yes, it's more expensive to not have a "one size fits all" fundraising program, but the net results should tell a different story.
Unfortunately, our news media seems to enjoy reporting stories of nonprofits that have been "caught" in a lie. Let's not give them any fodder for the stories. Focus on your integrity by fundraising for what you believe in, know the facts and never sacrifice them for expediency, and treat your donors like you would want to be treated yourself.
Oprah Winfrey once said, "Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not." An old-fashioned notion? Maybe. But I believe integrity is the "I" that really matters in our fundraising.