I recently spent an evening with some friends who are active on various dating sites; a good portion of the night included searching for potential matches.
The endeavor was hilarious, entertaining and mind-boggling all at the same time. There were so many people to choose from and there was no specific pattern to swiping left (no – he takes selfies) or right (yes – she owns a dog).
This got me thinking about the parallels between fundraising and dating. With over 1.5 million non-profit organizations registered in the United States, how does an organization get a potential donor to “swipe right”?
And, once you get the attention of the donor, how do you get them to commit and prevent them from having a wandering eye?
Make a Memorable Impression:
With so many nonprofits vying for a donor’s attention, it’s important to make a lasting impression the first time you introduce yourself to a potential donor. Don’t feel like you have to be flashy or drop a ton of cash to acquire a new donor. Instead, focus on creating an emotional connection with donors through your personal story.
Don’t Propose on the First Date:
It’s tempting to want to jump the gun and ask a Foundation or Major Donor for a large gift right off the bat. You know they have the capacity to give a large donation, they like what you do, and you feel a bond – so why not just ask?
The answer is simple: relationships take work. Even if you sweep a donor off their feet the first time you meet, it’s important to educate them about your organization, cultivate them, and prove that what you are doing works before asking for their support. This takes more than one day. It could take months or even years before the timing is right to ask for a large gift.
Donors want to hear from you in both good times and in bad. Like any successful relationship, open communication is the key to success. Program updates inform them about how their gifts are being used and emergency appeals let them know their support is needed. Even if a donor doesn’t give to a specific campaign, they still know about the work you are doing, so take a look at your communication schedule and see if you are talking to your donors enough throughout the year (whether it be through an appeal, email, cultivation, or newsletter).
It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right:
Your organization does amazing work. You help save lives and you are changing the world. You have received awards, celebrities are endorsing you and you are throwing a huge event to celebrate all of your great work.
Sounds like a lot of ‘you’, but what about your donors?
It’s important to always reiterate your appreciation to donors – no matter the size of their gift. Whether it’s through an acknowledgement letter, thank you call, or cultivation piece, donors must be told that they make the difference and that the organization thrives because of their support.
Sealing the Deal:
There are a lot of questions you want to ask a new donor: are you looking for a long-term relationship? Are you going to be a major donor? Is this a one-time thing, and we’ll never hear from you again? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure until time goes on. The ultimate goal in fundraising is a planned gift, and sometimes it takes years with a donor before they even consider adding you into their will. After all, that’s a HUGE commitment. You wouldn’t leave a one-night date $10K in your will, would you?
Getting a donor to leave a bequest requires years of hard work and building a strong relationship. While stewarding your relationship with donors, it’s important to remember to inform them of your needs by marketing planned giving. Many donors don’t know that they can leave a bequest to an organization they care about and therefore don’t give. Including articles about planned giving in newsletters and other communications is an easy way to market it on a tight budget.
The relationship you have with your donors will be a journey. Sure, you’ll have your ups and downs; they may even leave you for another organization – only to come back again when the other one didn’t work out. Sometimes your program goals will not align with theirs, and other times they will just get annoyed with you for no reason at all.
Getting your donor to swipe right is only the first step. Your photos and elevator pitch drew them in, but it’s your commitment, stories, and results that will lead to a happily ever after.