One hard and fast truth when it comes to fundraising is that you can't fake sincerity. Oh, don't get me wrong there are lots of professional fundraisers out there who have developed a good poker face. But the truth of the matter is people want to be treated like people not like a cash register. Cha Ching!
Some people honestly think if they could just figure out which buttons to push the drawer will pop out and all they have to do is reach their hand in and get the cash they need. Rest assured those same people would skip getting the loose change but only think about the bills.
If you really want to understand the people you are trying to convince to give to your cause then you need to step back and ask yourself, what are you as a fundraiser and nonprofit offering the donor?
Creating a donor for life and beyond is possible, but you must first get the thought out of your head that you will achieve instant success. Realize like most worthy endeavors this is a long gradual process. Again, donors are not scratch and win tickets!
So how does one begin? First as an organization you need to realize your appeal is limited and it impossible to be universally liked. Also, you'll be expected to compete with many other distractions that are constantly changing in the life of your donor. While you might not personally care about this that does not negate the truth of the matter.
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." John Donne - Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), XVII
We as individuals would like to think we can operate in our own little bubble and not have to worry about what goes on around us. However, no matter how wealthy a person might be we are all affected by the ills of society. In general we have concerns and sometimes fears. This reality can often be the bridge to nonprofits that are trying to address such needs. In some ways donors are the light switch that you find is either turned on, sending the much needed electricity through your nonprofit, or they are turned off and disengaged all together.
In order to determine the flow of electricity nonprofits need to be mindful of the meter. It is amazing now many staff members of nonprofits and boards of directors find themselves in a blame game. How often have you heard the phrases often said in a panic: Donor's aren't responding to our requests! I know the economy is bad so that must be why donations are down.
While I asked this question earlier I would like to again call your focus and attention to the question below. Read slowly and let it sink in this time: As a fundraiser and nonprofit what are offering to the donor?
Are you offering a chance of a lifetime, to change the life of an individual? Or instead, are you asking for mere operational money?
While nonprofits might be good at helping people they are often poor students of understanding basic human nature!
The best sales and marketing staffs in the world understand the human nature and intuitive relationship they must offer their customer i.e. in your case the donor.
Many folks have heard the old sales axiom: You are selling the sizzle not the steak! While any food will do to stop hunger, why do you choose a specific restaurant? All cars can provide you the basic transportation to get you from point A to B but why are you so focused on getting an SUV? It's time to buy light bulbs, but are you really buying the GE light bulbs or do you really only care about knowing that when you again turn on the switch the light pops on!
There are people who have made a profession to be "food artist" or "hand models." This is all done for one purpose and that is to create a perceived relationship between a product or service to a potential buyer.
So, Mr. or Mrs. Nonprofit I would like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Donor. Let me tell you a few things you need to know about these important people. Unlike in the for profit arena, donors typically are not buying products or services from nonprofits, yet there is expectation that goes far beyond just a simple acknowledgement. They want to know that whatever dollars they choose to give you will be treated with honor and respect and used wisely.
The time after a donation is the most critical moment for any nonprofit. The donor has made the first step in starting a relationship with a prospective nonprofit.
Most nonprofits unfortunately fail to understand that when a donor makes a contribution they are not just giving dollars but are in fact transferring a level of trust to the recipient. This concept of trust is quite interesting and universal. At the core of this transfer is a strongly held belief by the donor that something worthy will come about because they chose to respond to either a call for action from the nonprofit or were self motivated to give to respond to a need that was perceived.
While donors might initially be attracted to the nonprofit by a passionate appeal, this connection will fade fast unless there is a plan of action to follow up and let the donor know the difference their contribution made.
This "action plan" is not one letter, one phone call, one face to face contact. If you want to build a lasting relationship you have to be willing to spend time to get to know your donor first as a person and individual.
Oftentimes nonprofits categorize donors as if they were grades of beef. Their reasoning tends to revolve around a logical mind set believing that it is more profitable and their best use of time to spend more time with donors of means than with donors who could not afford to give as much. Most nonprofits, therefore, are found roaming the countryside on a constant preverbal "buffalo hunt" with every other nonprofit going after that same big buffalo. Yet, I have never come across any community that is overrun with large population of donor buffalos.
Instead I can't help but realize that we are ignoring a truth that has been given to us in the Christian story of the Widow's Mite. If you are not familiar with the story let me share it with you:
Mark 12:41-44 41 "And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44 for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
So do you really want a donor for life? What types of individuals are you seeking to find and why?
If your focus is only on the money but not the donor commitment then you have lost a great deal of perspective in your process of fundraising. In order to find someone willing to make a life long commitment, however, nonprofits need to also have the realization that this type of relationship is in fact a two way street.
If honestly graded the vast majority of nonprofits would not be given a passing grade on their ability to not just find donors but to retain them.
Everyone wants a generous donor, well guess what, donors want a generous nonprofit too!
Providing feedback and information to all donors is critical if a nonprofit expects to receive future gifts. Likewise it is also important that staff members share their time and personal commitment story to the donor about their enthusiasm.
We all know staff members are paid to do their job and there is nothing wrong with this. However, donors have little respect for individuals when they think the people running the organization don't honestly care about the cause they are pushing.
Creating a donor for life and beyond by way of a planned gift is more than one person's job, but that of the entire paid staff and volunteer board. Meeting this challenge head on quickly separates nonprofits that just strive to be good to those that aspire to be great!