Getting to Know You

Your nonprofit, regardless of its size, seems big and complex to a stranger. If you tell someone about all that you are doing, you are likely to overwhelm them. However, if you start them talking about themselves and their interests, you will find simple areas of intersection. You can cultivate their interests by talking about what they want to hear about. It makes your nonprofit seem simpler to understand and easier to appreciate. It makes your nonprofit more relevant to them.

As the relationship develops, the prospective donor will learn about the many activities and programs your nonprofit has to offer your clients as well as the many needs of your community. Some will be completely new to the donor. In other areas the donor will gain an appreciation of the depth and breadth of your offerings or your community’s needs. The prospective donor will become aware of how much more complicated things are when solving a community problem rather than meeting a client’s need (helping a family develop a sustainable lifestyle rather than providing a family with a night’s shelter).

The broad understanding creates a loyal, generous, and engaged donor. The donor will realize that a one-time gift is good but truly solving the problem takes commitment. Your staff, volunteers, and engaged donors are committed. The prospective donor needs to understand that to truly meet the needs of your clients and your community they must be equally committed. The need for an ongoing commitment and the magnitude of the problem (number of people in need and the duration of each individual’s need) make solving the problem expensive. Therefore, you need the prospective donor to be as generous as they are committed. With a fuller understanding of the impact they can have, the donor will be anxious to hear about progress and what more can be done to meet the needs. Now you have an engaged donor.

Next Step:

Focus initial meetings with prospective donors on creating a durable relationship

Use the prospective donor’s interest as the starting point for introducing them to your nonprofit, mission, clients, and your community’s needs

Use the prospect’s growing loyalty, generosity, and engagement as a measure of how well they understand your mission, clients’ needs, and your nonprofit’s importance to your community

Engaged donors are the foundation of a sustainable funding stream. Sustainable funding streams make financial planning easier and increase the fiscal health of nonprofits. While it is impossible to have 100% engaged donors, every nonprofit can increase their percentage. The easiest way to increase the number of engaged donors is to use your cultivation time with donors to help them to better understand your nonprofit, its clients, and the complexity of your community’s needs.

Take It Further:

Engage donors in volunteer activities so that giving is a personal experience and they have a deeper appreciation of your clients and all that your nonprofit does for your clients


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