The Key to a Donor’s Heart
Urgency and Impact!
These are the two most important words to donors. Why do I need to donate to you now, and what is the impact of my donation? Eighty five percent of your donors will give you a smaller donation just due to the nature of your cause. Another 10% will give a larger donation and want to direct those funds to a specific or designated area. But, the final 5% will give a substantial gift and want to know what outcomes are expected. What is their “return on investment?”
What is their “return on investment?”
A donor that I worked with on a campaign had given to the institution consistently about $50,000 per year. When we had secured a $1,000,000 match, he increased his donation considerably to match this amount. As he was handing me the check, he told me, “I have given you the yearly donation as a ‘taster’, but to get this kind of money – you have to give me a return on my investment.”
Ever since this meeting, I have been determined to provide this defined impact to donors at all levels of giving.
Planning and Persistence
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln, former U.S. President
There are many quotations about the need for planning, but I feel this one particularly targets the work of fundraising. There is so much effort that happens in development that is never seen - but is imperative. Putting together an annual fund gift chart, having compelling case statements and intertwining our planning with the CFO’s cash flow plan are all crucial for success.
I often state that development work is like cranking a “Jack-In-The-Box.” You are working consistently, but your Executive Director, Board of Directors and even your development team, don’t immediately see the results. Most of the time it is just unseen work… until all of that cranking finally pays off.
It is tempting to abandon that persistence and transform your established plan, but you must stay disciplined. As Todd Wagner of Watermark Church states, “Discipline is the heavy door that leads to freedom.”
Extensive strategic planning before you approach your donors is critical, but just as important is how you communicate with your supporters. Donors are offended and will become disenchanted with your organization if you subscribe to two approaches to fundraising: Reactive Fundraising and Hostage Fundraising.
Avoid Reactive Fundraising
Reactive Fundraising is an obstacle that many nonprofits face. It usually occurs due to poor planning. “We are experiencing a shortfall in our budget; will you help us make it?” is regrettably a common appeal that organizations make to their constituencies. This is not honoring the donor or their intentions. This speaks to the lack of planning and steals any confidence and trust you have built with the donor.
Avoid Hostage Fundraising
Hostage Fundraising is even more detrimental to your cause. Unfortunately, this sometimes transpires because of an unforeseen complication that has materialized but routinely arises because of substandard planning.
“If you don’t give now, we will have to eliminate this program” or the even more catastrophic, “if you can’t help us, we might have to shut down the ministry.” Again, this approach insults the donor and results in the opposite effect to shame or guilt the donor into giving. This approach may work once - but at what cost?
Reach Donors’ Hearts
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.” (Matt. 6:19-21, TLB)
Your charge is to make sure that you have reached the donor's heart...
This is one of the most quoted verses from The Bible as it relates to philanthropy. I love this visual picture that is given. The desire for our gifts to be used for heavenly purposes is innate in every Christian.
These verses in Matthew illustrate the first point of this article relating to the two most important words for a donor: Urgency and Impact.
Your charge is to make sure that you have reached the donor's heart; that you have helped them store up their treasures in the kingdom work of your organization. Isn’t this heavenly ramification the most important impact a ministry can make in its work?
Remember the words of George Müller that urge us to focus our donors on how our ministries invest in a much larger plan: “Laying up treasures in heaven will draw the heart heavenward.”
Paul A. Dunne, CFRE, is the senior vice president for Catapult Fundraising. Paul joined the nonprofit sector as a senior development officer for the Denver Rescue Mission and continued his career by serving in leadership positions in healthcare, higher education and human services with organizations both faith-based and secular. In 2016, Paul formed thinkpadsolutions to assist smaller nonprofits excel in their development work. Recently, he merged his company with national firm, Catapult Fundraising to expand these services.