People Give for a Reason

Every gift serves a purpose. Sustainable giving occurs when there is alignment between the donor’s purpose for giving and the nonprofits purpose for asking.

It is easy to have a misalignment. Likewise, it is easy to convince a stranger to make a small one-time gift. In the fundraiser’s mind, the reason for the gift might be to help a child. In the donor’s mind, the reason to give $25 might be to cut off the conversation and move on to other more important tasks. This explains why many donor databases have a larger percentage of names with no recent gifts attached to them.

Creating alignment is time-consuming yet important work.

Develop a relationship with the donor (3 – 5 meetings) and understand why the donors supports other organizations

Determine which of your programs are important to the donor and why (2 – 4 more meetings)

Test what you have learned by offering the donor the opportunity to make a small donation to a specific project

Thank the donor and report the results of the project to the donor

Ask the donor for feedback about the results and their expectations

Provide them with an opportunity to become involved in a bigger way

Repeat the feedback and increased involvement cycle

Whether the meetings need to be one-on-one or small groups, whether the contacts need to be phone, email, or face-to-face depends on the donor, the prospective size of the gift, who the donor knows in your donor base, and the size of the gift from your average donor. If the prospective size of the donor’s gift is $1,000 and your average donor gives $100, personal, private, and face-to-face contact makes sense. If the prospective size of the donor’s gift is $1,000 and your average donor gives $10,000, a less personal approach makes sense.

In addition, please invite the donor to all of the fundraising events while he or she is in the early stages of the cultivation. The more contact the donor has with your other donors, the more each donor will realize how well his or her interests fit with your mission.

You love the organization you work for. That is good. However, donors, especially new donors, care about the clients you serve. The needs of your organization (keeping the lights on, repairing the roof, etc.) are unlikely to appeal to a new donor or be the foundation for a sustainable relationship.

The new donor cares about the people you help and secondarily your mission. They especially want to know the “why”.

Why do people need your help?

Why is your help going to create measurable, meaningful, and durable change in someone’s life?

Be sure to phrase your response to the “why” questions in words and concepts that echo what the donor said was important.

Let us assume you work for a Christian school and the donor cares about children of poverty. Talk about how your school uses its religious foundation to instill confidence and courage in the students. It takes just as much courage and confidence for the son of a lawyer who is the son of a lawyer to give up the family trade and become an artist as it does for the daughter of poverty to believe she can graduate from college and become a lawyer. (This tells the donor how your school is able to break the cycle of poverty.)

Next Step:

Customize the donor cultivation process to fit your organization’s culture

Develop a personal relationship with donors before you develop a financial relationship

Talk only about the clients and how their needs, your services, and the donor’s interests intersect

A sustainable funding stream is the best buffer when the economy turns down. Sustainable funding depends on having a sustainable relationship with donors and constantly cultivating the generosity of the donors. A sustainable relationship depends on having a close alignment between your donor’s reason for giving and the results your nonprofit produces with his or her gift.

How soon can you increase the sustainability of your nonprofit?

As always, contact Mission Enablers if you want help. We use a special process that offers a guarantee. For more information about our process and guarantee, you can click here.

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