Competing for Donors

The competition among nonprofits for donors is fierce. The competition is much subtler than “Give to my nonprofit rather than those guys.” It is targeted at donors’ hearts, heads, goals, purposes for giving, and desire to help others.

Donors often give to multiple nonprofits in various sectors and many times two or more nonprofits in the same sectors. WIthin the collection of nonprofits they support are a few they support because of family tradition, obligation becauses of what the nonprofit has done for them or others, or some other reason unrelated to their usual reason for being charitable.

Donors support nonprofits in multiple sectors because each sector appeals to different parts of their hearts. They support multiple nonprofits within a sector usually for one of two reasons. They may see a distinct difference between the missions and believe that the promises of the missions are being effectively fulfilled. The other reason is that they feel none of the missions are as effective as they could be so they spread their support.

Through your cultivation of a donor, you can learn who they support and why. The reason behind each of their gifts can tell you how to do more to win a bigger share of the donor’s heart (increase generosity), retain the donor’s support (promote loyalty), and increase the donor’s involvement in your mission (increase engagement). Of course, every other fundraiser at every other nonprofit is doing the same thing.

Your cultivation needs to:

Heart – You need to uncover what makes your donor’s heart smile. What is it about making a donation that engages your donor’s or prospective donor’s emotions?

Purpose – Knowing their purpose for supporting your mission and other nonprofits’ missions will tell you how increase donor loyalty, generosity, and engagement. When you find a donor who has yet to think about making their gifts purposeful, you have the opportunity to help the donor grow. Once they become purposeful, you can help them receive more satisfaction and fulfillment from their gifts by setting goals for each gift.

Goals – What are the specific goals your donor wants to achieve or help your nonprofit achieve by giving a gift? If the donor is unable to articulate their goals, you know one of two things. Either it is a token gift or they have an underdeveloped capacity to give. If it is a token gift, you need to discover how to increase their engagement. To help develop their capacity to give, help them articulate what will increase their satisfaction and fulfillment. When they set goals for their gifts, giving will become even more satisfying and fulfilling.

Impact – The stories about misused funds, disappointing results, and overstated promises can cause donors and prospective donors to think that helping others through giving is rarely successful. You need to share the statistics that demonstrate your anecdotes are consistent, reproducible, and durable. Everyone wants their help to make a significant and long-lasting change in someone’s life. They want the change your mission makes to have the same or greater sustainability as you want for your nonprofit. Therefore, share the statistics about the durability of what you do for each client.

Next Step:

Cultivate your donors by meeting with them individually

Learn all you can about each donor’s giving habits, motivation for giving, and how they want to help others

Use what you learn and your nonprofit’s statistics to demonstrate to each donor that supporting your nonprofit has the potential to provide them with a sense of fulfillment and purpose as well as being emotionally gratifying

Donors live in the same dynamic world you do. Their desires, goals, purposes, and emotional connections are frequently changing. Ensure your donor cultivation includes testing your assumptions to confirm you understand what is currently important to each donor. Keeping current with your donors’ views will also help you increase the relevance of your mission and the sustainability of your nonprofit.

Winning the competition for donors’ hearts can be as simple as talking to each donor about what is important to them.

Take It Further:

Share what is important to your donors with your board at each board meeting

Ask you board to use what is important to your donors to guide the priorities of your nonprofit and the success measures for your mission and client services

Provide your donors giving opportunities that distinguish your nonprofit from all others

Ensure that the results produced by your donors’ gifts are meaningfully and measurably different from other nonprofits


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