By Angie Joens
Hi my name is Angie and I love donors! There I said it out loud. I want everyone to know – I LOVE DONORS! I love donors so much I have spent almost three decades studying them, thanking them, recognizing them, honoring them, reporting to them, informing them, and yes – loving them!
Think about it friends – where would our organizations be without our donors? Where would we be? I mean if I had not fallen into fundraising all those years ago I wonder where I would be? I shudder to think of a career doing anything that does not feed my soul like non-profit work.
So, if you are like me and love your career, your organization, and most importantly your donors – you know that we can’t do what we do without them. That is why donor relations work is so critical to any development operation. It is our job to build a relationship with the donors who support our work. How lucky are we?
A relationship with your donors is like any other important relationship you have with your own special people. You need to ensure that you build a strong foundation and have these things in place:
Trust – any good relationship must have trust. Your donors need to know that when they give to your organization that their wishes will be met. They need a strong understanding that you are responsible and will acknowledge the gift quickly, invest the funds wisely, spend the funds as the donor intended. This trust develops by consistent practice of doing the right thing over and over. And, if you make a mistake (as we all do – we are human after all) be sure to own it, apologize for the error, and fix it. That is what your donors expect and deserve.
Be a Good Listener – those that we love will tell us what is important to them but we have to pay attention. We have to listen. We need to hear not just what they are saying, but what they are not saying. Do you know what makes your donor’s heart melt? Or do you know what they despise. Do you know why your organization is so important to them? If not – you need to ask – the more you know the deeper the relationship can go.
Show Affection - Remind your donor how important they are – show them how their gifts make a difference to your organization. You can do this with a letter, an email, a video greeting, a phone call, or someday soon - in person. (Ah…I have actually made a list of everyone I cannot wait to hug once this pandemic is in hand.) Our donors need to be reminded over and over again just how important they are to us. We want them to feel cherished and adored and we do that by demonstrating our gratitude.
Surprise Them – This is my favorite tactic for showing a donor just how important they are to our organization. You can do this in so many ways and the better you know them the more fun and personal these surprises can get. One our health system clients once gave a donor a tour of a new facility that she named and as she went on the tour each person who met with her handed her a yellow rose (her favorite). By the end of the tour she held an arm full of roses and a memory to last a lifetime. One time I had an older donor who shared with me how much she loved gardening but that it was so difficult for her now to do it alone – so I sent a group of students who benefit from this donor’s support over to a donor’s house to help her plant her garden. What a surprise!
Respect – we all know how critical respect is in any strong relationship. We can show respect for our donors by listening carefully, acknowledging what they want and need, and then strive to make the necessary changes in our actions. Another important way we can show our respect is how we carry out our work. The donor bill of rights was created in 1993 when the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Association of Fundraising Professionals came together to create a set of guidelines that every non-profit should follow and every donor should expect from their charity.
Our donor relationships are important – very important. We need to keep our donors front and center in all we do. If not, we run the risk of them losing interest in our organizations or looking at others. You know that old adage – “there are lots of fish in the sea”? Well according to 2020 statistics, there are now more than 10 million non-profits worldwide and 1.3 million 501©3 organizations based in the US alone. That is a lot of competition – too much competition for me. So, I am going to continue to invest in the relationships with my donors. I am going to continue to show them the love and respect that they need to stay enamored with my organization. How about you????