Do You Know Your Donor’s ‘Why’?
Why does your donor love your organization so much? Have you sat down with your donor and really listened to the answer? If they say, “Well, I just think you do a great job,” do you dig deeper to find out the story behind their motivation to give?
When I’m talking to prospective clients, you would not believe how many major gift programs I discover are stagnant. Year after year, the overall revenue is barely increasing. In some cases, these organizations have great retention rates, but they are not inspiring donors to increase their giving. These donors give the same amount year after year, after year.
In other cases, there is high value attrition, and the organization is only hanging on each year because new donors come in to save the program from tanking.
Recently, I sat with one director of major gifts, and she said, “I’m not sure our donors have any more capacity. I’ve checked their wealth ratings, they have given faithfully for years, and they just won’t give more.”
Then I asked about a specific donor. “Well, why does she give to you?” The director of major gifts responded, “Well, I think it’s because she likes children.” Wait a minute! You think it’s because she likes children, or you know?
And that is the problem.
Richard and I are finding more and more major gift fundraisers who really don’t know the passions, interests, and motivations of their donors. It’s not that these fundraisers are not good at their work; it’s just that they could be much more successful if they started asking their donors “why?” more often.
That simple little question will unlock a series of other questions that will lead you to clues and “aha” moments that help you to discover who your donor is and why they are connected to your organization. In other words, you need to learn the donor’s story of why they support you, so that you can better serve them.
Many times, a major gift fundraiser will ask me how to get a $10,000, $20,000, or even $100,000 a year donor to go up another giving level. I always ask, “Do you know why that donor is so invested in your organization? What is the donor’s story?”
In almost every case, the answer is “Kind of, but not really.”
If you have all the right elements that will help you have a successful major gift program (structure, management and accountability), and yet you still find your program is just treading water, you need to ask yourself how well you really know your donors.
Knowing why your donors support your organization’s work is critical, because it will lead you to the right path in knowing how to care for them and how to solicit them correctly.
Richard and I have story after story of major gift officers who have finally unlocked that information from a donor, and then the relationship takes off – and so does the revenue.
As a major gift fundraiser, this is your No. 1 job: find out the passions, interests, and motivations of your donors. Next, understand and know their stories – then inspire them with offers that will bring them joy.
That takes time and dedication on your part if you’re going to do it well. You won’t get to the next level of your fundraising success without this understanding of your donors and why they give. Only then can you bring them inspiring offers that speak to their hearts for your mission.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.