Make ‘Do Unto Others’ Your Nonprofit’s Golden Rule
It’s time to bring a bit of "clairity" to your nonprofit culture.
Is it an empathic one? Or an indifferent one?
Is it a giving one? Or a greedy one?
If you want gifts, you must give them
"Do unto your donors as you would have them do unto you."
There must be a reason that this concept is found, in some form, in almost every religion and ethical tradition—and that all versions and forms of the proverbial golden rule have one aspect in common: they demand that people treat others in a manner in which they themselves would like to be treated.
I’m reminded of Darwin and his theory of survival of the most caring. Yes, this is true! As Dacher Keltner, founder of the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley, notes:
"‘Survival of the fittest’ was not Darwin’s phrase, but Herbert Spencer’s and that of Social Darwinists who used Darwin to justify their wished-for superiority of different classes and races. ‘Survival of the kindest’ better captures Darwin’s thinking about his own kind.”
The essence of a relationship is reciprocity—give and take.
When you are kind and giving, people want to reciprocate. In fact, reciprocity is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence and persuasion.
Yet too often nonprofits put "taking" at the center of their development strategies.
Do you ask, “What can we do today for our donors?” Or, do you fall into the camp that asks, “What can our donors do for us?”
Sadly, all too often here’s what transpires:
- Too much fundraising; too little “friend-raising.”
- Too much “we”; too little “you.”
- Too much greed; too little gratitude.
- Too many features; too few benefits.
- Too much “we know best”; too little “what do you think?”
Why it’s important to shift to a donor-centered, gratitude culture
If you’re like most nonprofits, you’re retaining less than 70 percent of first-time donors.
The most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project reveals you’re losing current donors faster than you can recruit new ones (103 lapse for every 100 you acquire). Median retention for all donors is just 43 percent.
If you want to keep your donors, you’ve got to keep them happy.
People who give don’t stop being philanthropic without a reason. You can’t lay the blame at their feet. No. You’re in control of how your donors feel and, to a large extent, how they behave.
Your donors don’t suddenly become scrooges.
They simply stop giving to you because they aren’t satisfied with how you treat them. Then they move on to another nonprofit that provides them with a better—more meaningful—experience.
So what can you do to take control?
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.