Welcome to the Family Reunion!
Last weekend, my husband and I flew three-quarters of the way across the country for a partial family reunion. My mom was one of 10 kids, so "partial" is about all we can hope for with a family as large and spread out as we've become. On Saturday, we joined two cousins and their spouses to visit with the only two surviving siblings — my uncles — and their spouses.
Most nonprofit organizations consider their donors "family." That means that every time you talk to a donor, send a letter or email, or see a donor face to face, it's much like a family reunion. And what happens in those few minutes or hours of engagement impacts the relationship for months, even years, to come.
A successful donor connection is built on many of the same things as a successful family get-together. Here are some tips from my weekend to help make your next "donor family reunion" one that strengthens relationships and leaves the donors longing for more get-togethers with your organization.
We talked about the past. The cousins and uncles have all known each other for more than 50 years. We found points of connection in sharing memories of one another and of family members who have since passed away. We told stories about the old family home in a small, rural community, and about the folks there who have long since passed away.
The place we often connected best was in the memories of those "old days," so those were an important part of the conversation. We didn't go into every detail but focused on what resonated best with the others.
Don't neglect the past when you talk to your donors (face to face or in print/electronically). It shouldn't be all you focus on, but a story or two that helps them build a bridge between their memories and what you are doing today can be very helpful for encouraging engagement. This is especially essential if you have made programmatic, name, logo or key staff changes in recent years. Don't be afraid to harken back once in a while to "the good old days," especially if that helps your donors catch up to where you are today.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.