Do You Treat Your Donors Like Gumballs? Stop!
Do you get your donor’s gift, chew it up, and then spit it out? Done?
It’s time to bring some clarity to this all-too-common practice of treating your donor’s gift as the “end” rather than the “beginning.”
Want your donors to sustain you?
Then you can’t consume them in five minutes. Yet all too often nonprofits treat their donors exactly like a gumball dispensed from a machine. Chew it up. Spit it out. Done.
Oh yeah, maybe you send a quick "thanks" to whomever gave you the change to buy the gum. But that’s as far as your gratitude takes you. You’re over it. You never even think about that gumball again. You probably can’t even remember what color it was. You’re off hunting down your next snack.
Little snacks are nice. But they won’t sustain you over time. One-time donations are the same way. And they’ll stay that way—one time—if you treat them the way you treat gumballs.
You’ve got to think from the perspective of the gumball.
It’s perfectly happy to have you enjoy it. That’s why it’s there. But it wants to know it made an impact. Tell it how happy you are with it. Tell it you think its color is pretty (that means, of course, that you have to take notice). Blow a bubble. Tuck it away to save it for later. Write it a note. Invite some of its friends over to your place. Find out more about it. Think of it fondly, and let it know now and again. Don’t wait until the next time you want a gumball to tell this one how you feel.
OK, the metaphor may be breaking down a bit, but you get the picture.
Think about building a relationship with your gumball (aka donor).
No one enjoys being simply tossed into the trash (or your donor database) and then being forgotten about.
If a donor makes a gift and you simply dispense an automated "thank you," and nothing more, that’s not a donor relationship. That’s a transaction.
You can have 100, 1,000 or 100,000 transactions this year. But that’s just now. They may help you balance your annual ledgers, but they won’t move the needle on solving your overarching problem or reaching your ultimate vision over time.
One-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow.
In fact, the most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows that a whopping 73 percent of first-time donors won’t give again. Every 100 donors gained is offset by 102 donors lost through attrition. Zowie!
You’ve got to transform transactions into something longer lasting.
Stop with the spitting out of snacks. Start with creating some nourishing meals. To clairify, let’s use another metaphor—the potluck.
When I’m asked to bring snacks, paper goods or a beverage, I run to the store at the last minute and grab a little something. I’m not too invested. However, when I’m asked to bring a main course that will serve 10, then I get serious. I think about what I’ll make. I buy enough ingredients to serve the full group. I make sure I don’t flake out because people are depending on me for the main meal. Even if I get sick, I’ll make sure that somehow the meal gets there. That’s how you want your donors to feel!
Your donors needs to know you rely on them.
You’re all about solving problems, right? Well so is your donor. They need to know they’re essential to your survival. It’s your job to let them know. If they ask how much you need, don’t say “any gift helps.” That’s like telling me to bring “whatever” to the potluck. It makes me feel unimportant, and certainly doesn’t fire my imagination.
If you’ve been treating your donors like gumballs, stop!
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.