Being Vulnerable Strengthens Your Nonprofit Donor Relationships
Building trust in any relationship is essential if that relationship is going to be real and authentic. And creating mutual trust in your nonprofit donor relationships is really your ultimate goal.
Why? Because if you have mutual trust, then you and your donor will feel comfortable to be real with one another. That leads to place where you, as the major gift fundraiser, can serve your donor by presenting opportunities for that donor to invest in that will bring them joy. And, it allows the donor to freely say yes or no.
That is a place of freedom for both you and the donor.
However, getting to that type of place in a donor relationship—or any relationship—takes work. I struggle with it all the time. Being real with someone means you have to give up something of yourself. It means, being vulnerable and allowing someone to see you... I mean really see you.
I think about my relationship with Richard. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’ve been business partners for almost nine years. Every year, that relationship strengthens because both of us continue to be vulnerable with one another. We allow each other to see the “dark places” of who we are.
But in doing so over the years, even though we may have some strong disagreements or disappoint each other, we know we’ll be okay with our friendship and our business relationship because we have an unshakable trust. That continues to allow us to “go deeper” and creates freedom without fear.
Now, you most likely will not have that type of relationship with a donor. Yet, you do need to have mutual trust with a donor if that relationship is authentic. So, two questions I have for you is this:
Can you be vulnerable with a donor enough to allow them to open up and be real with you?
And, will your organization be vulnerable with your donor to show a donor all that it is?
This is important because to invite a donor into a relationship with you and your organization’s mission, you have to allow yourself and the organization to be vulnerable with that donor. That allows the donor to be real with you.
If you have a donor who can be real with you, even if they reject an offer of yours to support a specific project or program, they won’t reject the mission of your organization. And they will tell you want they really want to do to support your mission.
I’ve seen major gift fundraisers and organizations that are vulnerable with their donors. They allow donors to know they are not perfect—that they have flaws. They invite donors to see those flaws and to seek guidance in helping them fix it. This relationship allows organizations to show a donor that they don’t have everything figured out, and they need others, like a donor to help them make a greater impact in the world.
Being vulnerable is counter-intuitive, both as humans and as institutions. But Richard and I have experienced that those organizations that don’t pretend to have all the answers are able to show their flaws and open themselves up to donors actually draw those donors closer to them.
This leads to a new kind of freedom in a relationship with a donor, one that has longevity and purpose. Ultimately, when you and your organization have this type of relationship, built over time with trust and respect, it leads to an abundance of joy for all involved.
I think we all want that.
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.