Why Your Donor Will Give Again
“I don’t understand why the donor stopped giving,” the major gift officer (MGO) said. “They seemed so interested in what I had proposed last year. They gave and they have been silent ever since.”
Stop and analyze each part of this statement:
- "I don’t understand why the donor stopped giving." The best way to understand is to go back and look at everything that did and did not happen after they gave.
- "They seemed so interested in what I proposed last year." This is a special gift to the MGO. The donor actually revealed his or her passions and interests. The donor was attentive, enthused, engaged and ready to give.
- "They gave ..." The giving part tells us that there was a solid match between the donor’s passions and interests, and the ask the MGO prepared.
- "... they have been silent ever since." OK, let me take a break from this list and talk about what is going on here on this silence point.
On a basic level, we, as human beings, are pretty predictable on what we do if we like something. We really like a restaurant. We go back there. We love the jeans we bought. We buy another pair later or stick with the brand. The mechanic treated us fairly and professionally when we needed our car fixed. We return when the next problem comes up. We love being with a certain person because it is always a rewarding and fulfilling experience to be with him or her. So we find ways to be with that person more.
This is basic stuff.
Why would a donor give in the first place? It is very simple. The donor gives to satisfy or fulfill a passion and interest he or she has. That’s it. Don’t make it more complicated than that.
When the donor is writing out that check or filling out the credit card info online, he or she is not thinking about the money, but what the money will do. Here is what that sounds like:
- “My gift will take those kids out of the horrible situation they are in.”
- “My gift will clean up that river.”
- “My gift will provide training for that mom and her children.”
- “My gift will give researchers the chance to find a breakthrough for that terrible disease.”
- “My gift will provide spiritual help and guidance.”
This is what the donor is thinking. As the donor parts with the money, he or she has an expectation that something good will happen because of the gift.
It is an expectation.
That is an important word to remember. The donor has an expectation.
Forget about the donor for a second and go back to my examples above about the restaurant, the jeans, the mechanic, etc. Those interactions were quite nice. And now you have an expectation in your head. Your expectation is that you will have a good experience when you come back.
Now, think about a situation where you had an expectation, then returned to the place (purchase, interaction, food experience, service provider, etc.) where your expectations were not met. What does that feel like? I can hear you saying the following to a friend: “Goodness. It was so good last time, and I can’t believe it was so bad this time.” Or, “My experience with that service or brand was so good before but something changed. It is so disappointing.”
You know what that feels like.
I had an experience over the last few months where some people used Jeff and me to get what they needed to get done and then never talked to us again. I had an expectation that I would hear from these good people — that they would talk to us. Nope. Silence. It was really OK for them to change course, but the silence was so hurtful. I had an expectation that they would honor us. Instead, I realized, we were used for their agenda.
You know what that feels like.
So, why did the donor go silent? Well, when you start digging into what happened after the donor gave, it becomes very clear:
- The donor gave and it took the organization four weeks to properly acknowledge the gift. Yes, the donor got a boilerplate receipt within a week – that’s like getting a receipt when you buy groceries. It just proves you paid, but four weeks to be thanked properly? Goodness.
- The MGO never told the donor that the gift made a difference. This is so amazing to Jeff and me. Telling the donor is as crucial to a donor relationship as air is to the human body. You cannot live without it. And a donor will not survive without proof that the giving made a difference. Won’t happen.
These are the two main things that happened. They are pretty basic — and pretty sad.
And the donor is thinking: “Well, I guess all they wanted and needed was the money. There was so much positive energy and activity on the front end, persuading me to give. But once I gave they were done with me. I feel used.”
The reason Jeff and I know your caseload donor will give again is because:
- You will thank them properly, promptly with enthusiasm and genuine gratitude
- You will tell them their gift made a difference. Not once, but many times. You will update them, send them stories, ask them if they need more info – you will be on it. They will know that the gift made a difference – that the promise you made during your ask has been fulfilled. That good has been done because of the donor.
This is why your donor will give again. Now all you have to do is make it happen.
You know what to do.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.