'Care About Donors the Same Way Whether They Donate or Not'
It was an impactful statement, one of many by Siegel during his keynote presentation last Wednesday at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2012 New York Nonprofit Conference. Siegel, an eloquent speaker and successful businessman, entrepreneur, lawyer, donor, nonprofit volunteer, activist and passionate lay fundraiser, may not seem like an obvious choice for a keynote at a fundraising conference, but it quickly became clear why he was chosen.
Siegel relayed the story of his father, who had worked two jobs for a modest living. Siegel grew up far from wealthy, yet his parents and grandparents had a strong charitable mind-set. However, as he was growing up, Siegel never suspected just how charitable his father was. You see, according to Siegel, his father was a cynic's cynic — a man who didn't seem to trust any institution. He certainly didn't come across as the charitable sort — more like the skeptical sort.
But upon his father's passing, Siegel discovered an entire drawer full of dozens upon dozens of return address labels, the majority sent by nonprofit organizations. Searching further, he found his father's checkbook and unearthed an astonishing number of checks his father made out to nonprofit organizations of all sizes, capacities and missions. Most of the donations were in small increments, but there were more than he could count.
Turns out, his cynical father was actually a closest philanthropist, donating to dozens upon dozens of causes. Siegel concluded that "even the most cynical people want to believe." They want to feel that there are others out there doing good. We all do. And your organizations are the ones doing that good, the ones who can garner support and make people believe.
The key, Siegel said — and the thing that changed his life — is to try and think of the other person and empathize with him or her in every situation. Realize that there is a human entity with the other party as well in all instances. That means approaching people as individuals and taking into account their wants, needs, desires and emotions.
And he summed it up by saying that you should always feel the same way about people no matter if they support your cause, idea, mission, whatever, or not. That's how all fundraisers should approach donors.
People want to believe in your good works and support them, even the most cynical people in society. So continue to share your passion, your stories and your good work to keep donors hopeful. Just remember, "Care about donors the same way whether they donate or not."