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How To Help New Leadership Get To Know Your Donors

By Jan McGuire


If you stay in donor relations work long enough, you will undoubtedly experience leadership transitions somewhere along the way. How can you, as a donor relations professional, be a helpful resource to new leaders? Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind, using a cake-making analogy:


Baking the basic cake: Have a simple document ready that explains your core services. Ideally, this already exists for on-boarding coworkers and other colleagues. Have your acknowledgement and recognition policies in place so leaders understand the amount/type of gifts they will thank donors for and the types of donor behaviors and giving that will be recognized in societies.


The frosting: Assist your new leader in getting to know your donors. For each acknowledgment letter prepared for their signature, provide them with a snapshot of that donor’s giving history and key activities. For example: cumulative giving, area(s) of greatest support, and current or past volunteer service (think foundation board, board of trustees, alumni board). If you know for certain that your new leader has met this donor, include that along with the when and where. Don’t overthink this process or worry about the presentation—keep a simple, consistent template and clip it to each letter. It’s an invaluable resource to help a new leader get to know your donors.


The sprinkles: Utilize your existing events as opportunities for your donors to have a meet & greet with a new leader. After all, we know donors want access and experiences. Your organization may have roll-out events for new presidents but think beyond that. Do you have an event for your loyalty donors or cumulative giving? If so, incorporate time for donors to interact with a new president or other leader personally. In this setting, be sure you have a staff member—or two—assigned to keep things moving. You don’t want one guest to monopolize all of your president’s time while other guests wait (im)patiently for a chance to introduce themselves. In my experience, every organization has at least one staff member who excels in “assertive helpfulness” so be sure to have that staff member on point for your event to keep the meet & greet moving along.


In the day-to-day life of a donor relations unit, it’s easy to forget just how much you know about your donors. But one of our greatest assets as professionals is our knowledge of our organization and the donors that make our work possible. Use this knowledge for your leadership’s benefit and help set them up for success. You’ll be glad—and they’ll be grateful—that you did.


This post was written by DRG Group member, Jan McGuire.

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