Inside the Donor’s Head

When you take the time to talk to an engaged donor you realize their head and heart are very busy. Their passion for your mission and concern about your clients keeps them engaged. Their engagement makes them think about your nonprofit, mission, and clients.

Every donor thinks about your nonprofit, clients, and mission when prompted by news, communications, attending an event, or being cultivated. The engaged donors’ passion, interest, and excitement about your mission’s potential causes them to think about your nonprofit without prompting.

Most donors who attend your events are interested in what is happening at the event. Engaged donors are energized by the opportunity before they reach the event. They may be energized days or weeks in advance. That is the reason they often invite or attend with a friend. Their energy level increases just seeing a note from you in their inbox or having your voice message. In addition, engaged donors are enthusiastic volunteers and look forward to being invited to help your clients in more ways than just donating. Use your cultivation to determine what energizes your donors. Ensure they are re-energized every time they are in contact with your nonprofit.

Most donors care about the impact their gifts have. Engaged donors have envisioned the impact. They care deeply about the impact. They want the impact to be of the highest quality and greatest durability. Numbers are boring. However, the implication behind the numbers is exciting. Donor are excited by the statistics that prove more people achieved success, the mission is having a deeper impact on your clients’ lives, and is shaping your clients’ future. Make sure the numbers you have are presented in ways that excite your donors.  

Donors are sometimes discouraged by obstacles, setbacks, and missteps. Engaged donors stay focused on the goals and remain committed to achieving what is important. The continued engagement of the donor helps to provide the resources to turn a setback into a step forward. The engaged donor is a key to the nonprofit’s long-term sustainability and the sustainability of the nonprofit’s funding stream.

Most donors take what you have to offer. Engaged donors try to shape what you are offering because they can see the potential your mission has to offer your clients. They want your nonprofit to be all it can be.

Because of what is going on between an engaged donor’s head and heart, they are loyal, generous, and involved. They know how important your nonprofit can be to your community and clients. They want your nonprofit to thrive and live up to its potential.

Sadly, many nonprofits fail to embrace their engaged donors. The donors’ attempts to shape the direction, services, and results of the mission are seen as meddling in areas where donors are unwanted and unqualified. Instead, include the donors and provide them with the education they need to be qualified. Use the donors’ desire to shape your nonprofit as confirmation of their interest and engagement. When a donor’s passion is left unnurtured, it is easy to lose what could have been a loyal, generous, and passionate donor.  

A donor’s desire to have evidence of their gift’s effectiveness can be seen as a lack of trust and the data collection and analysis can be seen as an unnecessary use of funds. However, providing proof of the donor’s effectiveness will increase the donor’s generosity and loyalty. When obstacles, setbacks, or missteps occur, you want your donors to be especially loyal and generous. Nurturing their engagement all of the time increases the potential you will have the support you need when you need it most.

Next Step:

Look for the indicators (donors wanting to have input, wanting statistics that show effectiveness, etc.) that tell you new donors have the potential to be engaged donors

Nurture the engagement of any donor who shows signs of budding engagement

Change your nonprofit’s culture to embrace engaged donors

The behavior that causes donors to disengage is under the control of your board and your fundraising team. The policies (actions), plans (thoughts) and conversations and communications (words) of your board lay the foundation for your nonprofit’s culture. Your nonprofit’s leadership’s (professional and volunteer) actions either underscore or undermine the culture of your board’s thoughts, words, and deeds. Your stakeholders will model their behavior after the leadership. Their level of engagement and willingness to engage will also be influenced by the culture they perceive and experience.

Take It Further:

Ask your board development committee to only recruit board members who are engaged donors

Ask your board development committee to nurture the engagement of all of your board members

Use donor engagement as the success measure for your fundraising rather than dollars raised and fundraising goals met



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