“If done correctly, I would say the most donor-centric thing a fundraiser can do is ask a donor for a gift. Why? Because you are allowing the donor to change the world. You can’t get more donor-centric than that.”
— Jeff Schreifels, Veritus Group
Jeff made the comment above in response to an article by Roger Craver on the Agitator blog: Donor-Centric or Faux Donor-Centric? Check the Plumbing. It has a terrific checklist of ways to tell whether or not your organization is donor-centric (I’ve summarized the list at the bottom of this article).
Everything on the list applies to donors of all stripes. If you’re going to do major gift fundraising (and you really, truly should because 88% of dollars raised comes from 12% of donors), these tips apply in SPADES.
Jeff was offering the ultimate donor-centric item to add to this checklist, and I could not agree more.
Ask. People. To Give.
Of course, not all the time. And not without being diligent about matching what you ask for to who you ask and what they care about. And not without tempering your “ask” approaches with “gift” approaches; you do have to do a fair amount of wooing. But…
You can’t just be wooing.
There’s an end in sight, right? And it’s not just you who wants to get there. Your donors want to get there too. And they can’t get there without you.
By not asking people to give you’re short-changing them.
Jeff went on to say: “By not asking you are ALLOWING donors to walk all over you. You’re training them to do it. Ask boldly.”
I would say it’s not so much that you’re allowing them to walk all over you, but that you’re giving them the wrong idea of what philanthropy is all about.
It’s about Love, Not Money.
Money follows naturally once the love is established.
But you’ve got to call a spade a spade.
Love can’t remain unspoken.
You have to say “I love this organization. I love you. You love what we do. Let’s get together!”
This type of conversation is not to be feared; rather, it’s to be embraced.
Through philanthropy (“love of humankind”) people can attain their highest level of meaning.
Philanthropy Gives People Purpose.
If all you do is cultivate, cultivate, cultivate, never getting around to the ask, you never get around to the joy.
Some fundraisers mistakenly think it’s rude to ask. Really, it’s rude not to.
Imagine you’ve talked up a wonderful party you’re going to give, and have told your friends all the coolest people will be there, and then you never invite them to join you? Are they supposed to know you’re waiting for them to invite themselves?!
You know the old adage: “Ask and ye shall receive.” I would add a corollary for fundraisers:
“Ask and your donor shall receive.”
That’s the height of donor centricity.
Give to your donors by asking them to give.
Meet Your Donors’ Needs, Not Yours
If you’re to honestly meet your donor’s needs and desires, you mustn’t leave them in the dark. That’s what ad nauseum cultivation does. It leaves folks wondering about your purpose. If you don’t ask them to help you solve a problem, how can they possibly feel good about your encounter?
At the same time, you mustn’t rush things. Major gift fundraising, especially, takes time. Folks need to get to know you. To trust you. To understand how they can enact their values through your organization.
The “Goldilocks Rule” applies.
Don’t Woo (aka “cultivate”) Too Much. Or Too Little.
You’ll know your donor’s time has come only if you’ve been getting to know them through a planned series of cultivation “moves.” People generally move along a continuum, from interest… to awareness… to engagement… to investment. [I delve deep into this in my “Winning Major Gifts” online course; see below].
- Your prospect won’t be ready if you’ve done too little. If someone has an interest in a cause similar to yours, but knows nothing about you, it’s a bit too soon to ask. Would you take a first date on an overnight to a ski lodge? Enough said.
- But folks can get to the investment stage fairly quickly, especially if they already have strong connections to you, so you don’t want to do too much.
- That’s where many nonprofits go awry. They have a hard time mastering just right.
Avoid indiscriminate wooing at all costs. It’s a waste of your time, and it’s very confusing to your prospects. At some point, they expect to be asked.
There’s a rhythm to effective, donor-centric major gift fundraising. If you do it correctly, you almost won’t need to ask. Donors will ask you: “How can I help?” “What’s the best way for me to make an impact?” They’ll ask these questions, because the answers will enable them to meet their own needs.
Facilitate Passionate Philanthropy
Bottom line: You’re a philanthropy facilitator.
You help people who love channel that love in a meaningful direction.
Your job is to inspire investment through direct, purposeful, joyful asks that enable the donor to enact their values and find satisfaction and meaning.
Don’t pussyfoot around. Tell and show donors where you’re headed. Talk to them about their philanthropic interests. Ask for their advice and feedback. Don’t pretend you’re not ultimately going to ask for a philanthropic gift.
What’s the point otherwise, and why are you wasting everyone’s time?
Think about your donor. Always. What’s in this for them?
Meet their needs!
The Agitator’s Donor-Centric Checklist
Do staff and consultant performance reviews include contributions made to advancing donor satisfaction, retention and responsiveness?
Are donor service personnel properly trained, recognized and compensated within the organization?
Do donor-facing personnel participate in discussions around creating donor experiences?
Are all departments aware of and focused on the same donor retention, commitment and satisfaction goals?
Do the board and CEO routinely participate in reviews of donor retention and commitment rates?
Does leadership place more emphasis and importance on current donors than potential donors?
Do the organization have methods for seeking donor feedback, responding quickly to donor concerns and sharing these concerns across departments and with leadership?
Is the organization willing to change or adapt processes to meet donor concerns based on feedback?
Does the organization have a true focus on donor needs and a process for meeting those needs?
Does the organization follow basic practices to maintain and update donor addresses and remove deceased donors’ names and addresses?
A leadership and management culture willing to have its own assumptions challenged and tested through input and feedback from donors?
Investing more in making functions work more simply and easily for the donor as opposed to working for the convenience of the organization?
Providing easy-to-find contact information and feedback channels that are responsive and easy to use by the donor?
Want to Learn to Raise More Major Gifts This Year?
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