Winning a Donor’s Heart and Mind

Winning a donor’s heart is relatively easy. A well told anecdote with strong emotional content and key points that engage the donor’s emotions is usually enough. That is almost a sure formula for obtaining a gift. However, it may only be a single token gift. It is a start but there must be much more to create a durable relationship that grows over time and increases the sustainability of your funding stream.

Each contact with a donor must renew the emotional connection. It must also engage the donor’s mind by building a logical foundation. The logical foundation must be fortified with statistics that prove each anecdote is a common event rather that an exception. You know you have a durable relationship when both sides can say, “You believe what I believe and you want what I want.”

Creating that relationship means:

Both sides are open and transparent so that they can be held accountable

There are shared values and an agreement on what is important

Each side keeps its commitments to the other without excuses, explanations, or exceptions

Effectiveness is more important than efficiency

Working together enables both sides to achieve their unique goals

Both sides are committed to the success of the mission and increasing its effectiveness, long-term impact on the clients and community, and number of clients served

The standards are measurable, documented, and mutually agreed upon

Both sides are concerned about the sustainability of the other and will do what they can to help ensure the other side’s sustainability

Both sides are passionate about their shared vision for the future of the clients and the community

Sometimes the preceding is perceived as providing donors with too much influence. The fact that currently a few donors have a robust relationship with the nonprofit can add to the discomfort because it appears to concentrate too much power in a small group. That reaction overlooks one key point: Nonprofits exist to use donors’ gifts to solve society’s problems. Therefore, donors have the right, some would say obligation, to ensure their gifts are used according to their wishes.

Your donors’ wishes will be honored one of two ways. You can give your donors an active voice or your donors can take their gifts to a nonprofit which will do a better job of serving them.

Next Step:

Determine what your donors want

Tell your donors stories (anecdotes) and provide your donors with statistics that prove you are responsive to your donors’ desires

Use the nine points above to guide your donor cultivation

When you focus on the most promising activities, it usually produces the greatest success. Focusing on a few donors who are either very passionate about your mission or have the potential to be passionate may seem limiting. However, with strong partners supporting you, it will be easier for your nonprofit to increase the effectiveness of your mission and value to your community. Your effectiveness and value will attract additional supporters and your nonprofit’s strength and sustainability will grow.

Take It Further:

Ask your board to use your fundraising success as a way to measure donor satisfaction and mission effectiveness (as defined by donors and your community)


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