Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nonprofits Need To Understand Their Donor

I have yet to run across a nonprofit that has told me they have plenty of money!

Most that I'm aware of are trying to figure out how to raise more money or to attract the potential donors who have the big bucks! Subconsciously, I think, many nonprofits are treating donors more like lottery numbers, somehow believing their contributions are all part of a bigger game of chance. They wait patiently for their numbers to come up, having a false sense of hope. Success must just be around the corner! Nonprofits that take this approach are destined to be moderately successful at best.

Nonprofits have a hard time understanding their donor, because they have not taken the time to get to know them! They have not made the effort to find the donor's hot button or passion. Therefore, the donor drifts and many times disappears completely!

Year after year the facts tell us that the vast majority of all the money contributed to nonprofits comes from individuals. So, why are nonprofits ignoring the individual donor?

As a reader, I want you to think about who you are currently making charitable contributions to and I want you to also think about who you gave to in the past year but are no longer giving to that organization now. Why have you stopped giving to these organizations?

Has the organization stopped doing the good work they were doing? For most people that answer would be, NO! What happened then? Did you, as a donor, get bored or did the organization lose touch with you?

I believe the majority of the time the answer is the following: As individuals we want to feel like our contribution counts and matters! We want and many times "need" to feel appreciated! The moment we feel the least bit taken for granted we move on.

Sadly, in the consultant world, nonprofits are so lost that on many occasions before they even think about raising money, especially for larger capital campaigns, the organization will choose to run out and hire an "expert." Normally these folks come from out of town, often times get paid thousands of dollars, to tell the nonprofit what "their donors" think about them. The consultant also will gladly for that fee give their opinion on the "chances" the organization has in raising the money they are talking about needing. Wait a second....please.. help me out, OK!

This is not a game of "chance" is it?

I know this will not be a popular position to express and I'm not against anyone seeking professional help! Hello, I'm a consultant after all, and I enjoy helping and nonprofit organizations find the answers to the questions they have.

But folks, as nonprofits you should have a better handle on who your donor is and what they think about you! You should not need someone, like myself, to come in from the outside who knows nothing about you, your history, your organization or what you have accomplished to find that answer out. You should already know!

I know what some of you are saying now: As strange as it sounds, it is true, that it is easier to talk to strangers rather than be so blunt to the staff of a nonprofit.

Regardless, I would like to make a challenge today to all nonprofit executive directors as well as to all nonprofit board members. You both need to take the time today to get to know your top twenty donors to your organization, before someone else does. You have everything to lose if you don't!

Right now pull out your calendar, and set up weekly lunch appointments with those people, NOW!

Do not, I repeat, do not ask for a contribution on this visit! If the donor wants to give you a check instead of meeting with you tell them, no thanks, you're not looking for a check! You want to let them know what the organization is doing i.e. a status report! You heard me right, this is more of a social call, not a fund raising call. In fact, if lunch or dinner is arranged I want you, as soon as you walk in the restaurant, to tell the server that you are paying as well! Now sit back and hear what the donor has to say, find out what is important to them. You might be surprised what you learn!

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DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.