Do Your Donors Feel Appreciated and Part of a Worthwhile Group?
I still have the notes posted on my desk.
"Worthwhile member of a worthwhile group."
"Pride of association."
I took these notes early in my fundraising career — back in the late 1980s. As an executive director with the March of Dimes, I was being coached on moving to more relational fundraising by a retired higher education advancement professional.
A short time later, I added a third quote to the card:
"I will smile at friend and foe alike and make every effort to find, in him or her, a quality to praise, now that I realize the deepest yearning of human nature is the craving to be appreciated." — Og Mandino
Our office library has literally hundreds of books, DVDs and other resources on fundraising and nonprofits — boards, planning, leadership and more. Our computer server is full of references and samples.
I also have attended decades of Association of Fundraising Professionals and other professional association meetings and conferences and participated in countless courses.
But after all these years, these three quotes remain.
They are reminders of the personal and individual nature of fundraising. They are reminders that people don't most often give to a great cause if they don't believe it is a great group. I've seen board members, donors and volunteers flee nonprofits with great missions because of poor (and unethical) leadership.
Yes, our donors — and we are, of course, donors — want to change lives. Make a difference. Change the community ... change the world.
But so many of us also have internal needs to be met. Most people have a pride of association — they want to be part of a winning cause.
I remember when I first moved to Nashville. You seldom saw Tennessee Titans gear until the team began to win. Then it seemed everyone was a fan!
Yes, there are donors who will keep giving and truly never want recognition — but nearly all do want to be appreciated. If you have been in this business any length of time, you have dealt with human nature and a donor who was frustrated — rightly so — because her gift was not acknowledged, his name was misspelled or another cardinal sin of donor relations was committed.
Your donors want to feel an association — and you want them to. Reach out; bring them into the fold. Get to know them. Let them know the difference they are making — and the difference they can make in the future. Make your top donors feel like they are a part of your inner circle — because they are.
Bottom line: Be a worthy cause, and be a group that people want to be associated with — from your mission to how you fulfill it to how you fundraise. And be sure that your donors, at every level, know that they are appreciated.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.