Never Visit, Call, Write or Email a Major Donor
Yes, that headline was meant to be provocative, but it was also meant to get you thinking. How does your major donor like to be communicated with? It’s not about how do you or your organization like to communicate — but how does your donor want to be communicated with, that best suits them?
Knowing how your donor wants to engage will unlock a new level of relationship with them.
In a SmartBrief article, author Diana Peterson-More said:
“Most of us practice the ‘golden rule’ of communication, meaning we communicate with others the way we want to be communicated with. If we practice the ‘platinum rule’ of communication — communicating with others the way they want to be communicated with — our chances of success increase exponentially.”
She also offered these tips to help us understand how to figure out a person’s (read: a donor’s) communication style.
- Ask. Donors will tell you their preferred styles of communicating.
- Observe. Try different styles with donors and see what nets the best results.
- Confirm. Try a method, say giving an answer verbally, and then follow up with, “Joanna, I want to make sure I send some follow-up resources, can I email you as well?”
- Accept responsibility. If you forget, own it and be honest with the donor.
Richard and I talk a lot about making sure major gifts officers (MGOs) have a strategic plan for each of their donors. We use a tool called the donor engagement plan to help a major gift fundraiser create those plans. One crucial aspect of that plan is knowing and understanding your donor’s communication preference.
If you use Diana’s tips, you should be able to uncover it through your qualifying process with your portfolio.
Yet, what is still very frustrating for major gift fundraisers is that they’re pressured to not communicate via the donor’s preferred method, but instead defer to the organization’s preference.
Here’s how that plays out. One area where we see a disregard toward a donor’s communication preference is how nonprofits use metrics to evaluate major gift fundraisers. Almost every nonprofit will have some metric that you have to meet X number of times per month face-to-face with a donor. In many cases, it’s between 15 and 25 times a month.
What if a donor doesn’t like to meet face-to-face? What if they prefer to talk over the phone or through email? Shouldn’t you honor the donor’s wishes? Of course!
Yet we’re so focused on our way of communicating that we forget that the real value for the organization and for the donor is in creating a meaningful connection. One that honors the donor and moves the relationship to a deeper place.
That meaningful connection can only truly be done if it’s in line with the way the donor wants to be communicated with.
There are too many major gift fundraisers running around out there trying to meet a metric that’s organizationally centered and not donor-centered.
If you become truly donor-centered, you will see much more success in deepening a relationship with a donor and, ultimately, realizing larger gifts, by moving away from the “golden rule” and to “platinum rule” of communication.
It’s not about you — it’s about your donor.
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.