I recently wrote a post about how to take charge of your nonprofit’s ‘major donor-investor plan.’ One of my readers asked “How did you come up with that term?”
Hmmn… I don’t think I came up with anything. I’ve simply considered my major donors as investors since as long as I can remember. But, honestly, I think the term may have been coined by fundraising guru Kay Sprinkel Grace, who has been a mentor and huge influence in my development practice. So, thank you Kay.
What’s in a name? Let’s take a moment to consider the power of language.
Contributor – The word contribute generally connotes ‘helping’ to achieve something or giving ‘towards’ a common fund. It’s not a big vision word. In major gifts you need to think and dream big.
Donor – The word donor generally connotes the provision of a “part” – such as an organ, blood, etc. It can be an important part, but it’s not perceived as major. That’s why so many organizations have levels of giving, where ‘donor’ is at the bottom followed by patron, benefactor, guardian, angel and the like.
Supporter – The word supporter is also a ‘lower rung’ word. A supporter helps. But they don’t make it happen. Sometimes they don’t even give money. They advocate, boost and promote. All great things. But a supporter does not connote a major donor investment.
Giver – Now we’re beginning to talk. A gift also connotes a special ability, talent or endowment. Giving is special. Everyone likes gifts. Especially gifts where the giver has put a lot of thought into the selection of the gift. Thoughtful gifts keep on giving. The giver and the recipient feel great joy when there is a match between the giver’s intentions and the recipient’s needs/desires.
Investor – This is a powerful word. Invest comes from the Latin investire, meaning to clothe or attire. In other words, to cover completely. You can’t get more major than that!
If you’re thinking “this is just semantics,” please think again. For profit ventures don’t seek donors. They seek investors. Folks with a deep knowledge and interest in what they are doing. Folks who will realize the value of their investment over time. Not just folks willing to casually contribute a small amount or make a quick purchase. That won’t get them where they need to go. It won’t get you there either.
Here’s what I deeply believe:
Your major donors are truly investors in your mission. I much prefer the term over ‘contributor’ or even ‘donor’. Those terms sound like you’re giving a token or a small piece of yourself. They tend to be perceived as transactional, rather than transformational.
Investors are all in. Investors ask great questions. Investors keep track of their investments and want to see them grow and thrive. Investors share with and influence their peers. Investors look for connections that will boost their investment’s value. Investors are true partners in your success.
Investment-minded folks will sustain your mission and attain your vision. You need donor-investors.
I’m reminded of the fable of The Chicken and the Pig. When producing a dish made of ham and eggs, the pig provides the ham which requires his sacrifice and the chicken provides the eggs which are not difficult to produce. Thus the pig is really committed in that dish (like the investor) while the chicken is only involved (like the contributor, donor or supporter).
For a contrary view, see Why Donors are Not Investors. Then tell me what you think.
Photo: Flickr, Dennis Jarvis
I have been calling donors investor for a long time. It really gives them the buy in that the NGO cares about them, not just the money but what they think!
Thanks Lyn! It’s so important to build a relationship that is two-sided. Good for you. 🙂