The Great Thinkers' Guide to Donor Relationships
I just wanted to let you know I’ve got a new girlfriend. I’m very excited, because I think she’ll be great for me. When I was prospecting for someone to support me, I asked a lot of girls out, and she’s the one who said yes.
Now that I’ve got her on board, I need to start moving her up the love pyramid right away. I’ll take her out eight or 10 times a year, asking her to pick up the check of course, and after each date I’ll send her a quick email (I’ve already written them all out in advance to save time) thanking her for a good time the night before.
If I do this consistently, I think I can get her to pick up bigger and bigger dinner checks, and after a few years, I’ll have her near the top of the dating pyramid.
Then I’ll pull out all the stops. I’ll send her some real personal letters that I actually signed and quickly ask her to be my lifetime partner by joining my Marriage Society. And then she’ll give me a ton of money and also leave me a big bequest in her will! It’ll be easy, right?
What’s that you say? You think this won’t work? That this is no way to have a relationship? That people can tell when they’re being “handled” … and they won’t put up with it for long?
Of course they won’t! And yet, despite our best efforts, how often do we find ourselves thinking just that way about the most important people in our professional lives, our donors?
So as I was thinking about this whole relationship thing, I looked up a few thoughts from some really smart people to see what kind of insight they could offer on how to make relationships strong and lasting. Here’s what some of them had to say:
'When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.' — Mark Twain
One thing we know about donors is that they give from their hearts. So we have to speak to them from ours. Yes, we need to make a rational and compelling case for giving, but we can’t forget that the decision to give is an emotional one. And if we want donors to feel compassion and urgency, we must speak to them compassionately and urgently.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.