By David A. Mersky
My friend Mark Satterfield and I worked together many years ago. He is a marketing guru whose focus of late is in helping professionals in “the art of marketing to the affluent and high-net-worth clients.”
Recently, he said, “rich people are not interested in getting something that feels corporate in pitches for services. They are like everybody else — they want to be engaged, made to laugh, have their hearts touched.”
I was really intrigued by what Mark had to say.
Because I have noticed how often it is that people who are naturals as storytellers, conversationalists, and relationship managers seem to forget these tendencies when they go to work for a nonprofit, either professionally or in a volunteer capacity. Suddenly, and regardless of the socioeconomic level of the people with whom they are communicating, they become “corporate.”
They talk like robots, use unnecessarily big words, and try to sound as impressive as possible. As if the path to a donor’s heart lies in statistics and dry professionalism.
My Own Disappointing Experience
A few years ago, as part of my search for how organizations can better steward the relationship with first-time donors, I contributed to a wonderful nonprofit. I really believed in what they were doing. Sadly, it was one of the most unfortunate experiences I have ever had.
First, they never recognized my initial donation. The following year, they asked me to contribute again with no acknowledgment that I had already been a supporter. And the way they asked was terrible: a postcard whose message was, “Where is the donation you were going to give to us?”
The postcards kept coming and, rather than feeling joyful at having done something meaningful in contributing to the success of this organization, I began to feel guilty.
This impersonal approach is not the way to secure lifelong support from a first-time donor.
Effective fundraising is fundamentally about managing the relationship between your organization and its donors. It requires putting yourself in their shoes and never forgetting that it is only through their generosity and passion that your work can continue.
Here are five things that your donors want from you:
#1. To Know They Made a Difference
Nobody gives if they do not care about what is going to happen with their donation.
They want to know… did they save a life, put a meal on the table, pay for a new bookcase in a library, provide much needed healthcare, provision clean water that is vital to life itself.
Your job is to let the donor know that having asked for their gift, you are going to do with their money what you promised. So that the donor will know they have done something good in our broken world.
#2. To Feel Appreciated
How would you feel if somebody kept asking you for favors or borrowing money without ever thanking you? Well, that is how your donor feels if you do not express appreciation for their contribution. No donor wants to be your ATM!
You need to say thank you and let them know what a hero they are and what impact their gift has had. Absent words to that effect, few people will give again. In fact, the nonprofit sector is so bad at appreciating first-time donors that fewer than one in five will make a second gift.
#3. To Know That You Are Trustworthy
Yes, their money is in your account — but it is still their money. You are only a temporary custodian. You must now use those funds wisely.
So, report to them regularly on your progress. Send an impact report, a newsletter, an annual report, etc. Talk about the amazing things the donor has accomplished in supporting your cause. Show them how much you value what they have enabled you to get done.
#4. To Feel Heard
Sometimes, when people contribute, they will send along a note. Or they might call you, or make a comment on your web site, LinkedIn post, or Facebook page. Pay attention. Take note of what people are saying.
And, to encourage communication from your donors, ensure it is abundantly clear how to contact you. Then, make the interaction truly a two-way street by responding to each comment, whether nice or nasty, constructive or critical. Sometimes, that is all you need to do to cement a relationship.
#5. To Enjoy an Easy Donation Process
More and more gifts are being given online. Many of these are small — ten, twenty, a hundred dollars.
You might think, “I am focused on the five-figure gifts and beyond.” Of course, those are important. But remember that the person who makes a small first gift may have great capacity. They may be testing to see how — if — you will respond.
Overall, it should never take more than a minute or two to donate; nobody wants to fill out countless forms. Many people abandon the process because it is too complicated, causing your organization to forego not just that contribution, but all future contributions from that initially interested, now frustrated, donor.
Test and Retest the Process
It may seem that your organization is doing everything right, but how do you really know? Ensure that things are working as you would want and expect by contributing to your own organization through its standard channels and experiencing the result firsthand.
When you provide everything your donors want, you will enjoy the benefits of stronger relationships and watch as your philanthropic revenue increases year over year.