What more is there than the gift? Isn’t getting the gift the only thing that really matters?
After all, we have a budget to meet. We have clients to serve. We have a building, and overhead, and expenses.
So we send out letters. We host galas. We produce an annual report and send newsletters to communicate how well we are doing.
But wait, we are short of our goal. Our direct mail fell flat. Can’t get our Board and Staff to contribute. Our gala didn’t raise enough money and we only got names from half of those who did attend. And our development office is understaffed.
If this sounds familiar, that’s ok. Take a breath. Read on.
As fundraisers we know that our work is important. We know that the health and well-being of our organization is dependent upon our work. Our outcomes.
But while we “chase the money” we overlook the most important component of the fundraising equation.
The donor? Yes. The donor does give the gift. They attend our galas. Their names are in our annual reports and on our buildings.
But donors need more. They want more. They deserve more.
Donors are so much more than ATM machines dispensing $10, $100, $1000 as our needs arise.
Donors are partners in our mission. They are with us because the mission and ministry matters to them. They have reserved a place for our organization in their heart.
Science shows that “giving increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin in our brains—leading to increased happiness.” Giving actually makes donors happy!
The Association of Fundraising Professionals defines fundraising as “the raising of assets and resources from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project.” Blah, blah, blah . . . .
In reality “Fundraising” is about helping people connect their existing passion directly to your cause. It’s not about “convincing” them to give. It’s about helping them realize that they already care. Donors believe that it is a “privilege” to give to charity.
Fundraising is about what we do WITH our donors not TO our donors.
According to nonprofit guru Jeff Brooks, “When you ask [for a gift of support], you become part of the donor's world — a place where love, empathy and self-empowerment combine with generosity to make the world and the donor better.”
Yes you need the money to fulfill your mission. Without it you can’t exist. Neither can we exist without a community of passionate and faithful donors. It is their commitment to your cause, their connection to your good work that inspires their giving.
And remember, you are not the only charity Mr. & Mrs. Donor are supporting.
The results of the 2014 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Survey shows organizations lose at least 57 percent of their donors annually. This translates into more than $25 billion in donations at stake. That’s significant turnover and missed opportunity.
Donors tell us that in making their giving decisions, they need to . . .
- Know their money is used wisely,
- Feel that the organization has a good reputation,
- Have a strong belief in the organization’s mission, and
- Believe that their support [truly] makes a difference.
Dr. Adrian Sargeant tells us that
“to keep donors loyal and happy and giving [year after year], you only have to connect two dots. Dot #1: the generous, wonderful, compassionate, kind donor. Dot #2: The good outcome that your donors’ grand and empathetic hearts will make possible (children saved, poor fed, people in crisis helped). Connect these two dots. Only those dots. [No third dot about your charity.] Your donors will not respond to that stuff. Just the opposite, in fact. When you insert a big fat third dot all about you [your organization], donors give less and leave sooner.”
“You can keep doing what you're doing and you'll keep getting the results you've been getting,” or you can put the Donor at the center of your fundraising equation.
Donors give with their heart. They believe giving is a privilege. They want to be inspired. They want to feel appreciated.
They want to walk with us side-by-side in fulfilling the mission and ministry.
Because, giving makes them happy.
This is an exciting time! Go through your database. Get to know your donors. Call each of them at least once per year regardless of how much they give. Celebrate their passion and generosity. Tell them a lot how their gift made a difference -- to the children, the seminarians, the sick and frail, the parishioners, and the faithful.
If you do this, you’ll get the gift(s) and so very much more.
-published in July 2015 "Dimensions", a publication of the National Catholic Development Conference