Donor Flavors

There seem to be three distinct kinds of discussions that I have with donors: story-based, fact-based, and recognition-based. Many solicitations will have one or two of these themes in them, but one of them always comes out on top. Each of the below strategies are built around how a donor would best respond to a solicitation proposal.

Story-based. This kind of donor conversation centers on a current or past donor story. Most of my solicitations are story-based as I find that people like to hear examples of how money has changed lives even if it is not what their money will specifically do. I’ve often found that if an organization is raising money for greatest needs this can be a good strategy to get unrestricted giving.

Fact-based. A donor who responds to a fact-based proposal wants to know exactly what his or her gift is going to do. These donors often view their giving as an investment in social good. They will want to know answers to questions like how many people will this serve, why do you do what you do this way, how much of what I’m funding is staff? Many of these proposals become restricted or designated gifts. This kind of donor wants to ensure that his or her money goes to a specific exact need.

Recognition-based. Some donors want people to know about their giving or their on-going contributions to an organization. These donors want to know how their gifts will be recognized. Getting a big gift from these individuals will mean you need to give big recognition. Sometimes this giving will be tied to a specific project in a building. But, often a recognition-gift discussion talks more about the legacy of a donor and how you can recognize that legacy and the money can be used in some form to greatest needs.

Have you seen any patterns like this when you’ve worked with donors? Many solicitations will often pair strategies together. Does your style of fundraising lean towards one of these themes over another?


4 Responses to Donor Flavors

  1. Brigid says:

    I just saw this great video (posted it up at my site) by Dan Ariely that really draws the distinction between story-based and fact-based donors. As I’ve seen also, for the broad donor base, stories are most effective. However, for “professionals” like philanthropic advisors and foundation staff, the numbers are most important.

  2. Jason, great break down of motivations. I’d offer that these types also apply to sponsors, event sponsors or benefit auction sponsors even. If non-profits and schools approach the “big ask” of a sponsor knowing what flavor he/she is, I suspect they’d have very positive outcomes.

    Thanks for reminding us to talk to people in the terms that they want to hear – always a good point to keep in mind when we head into a meeting, pick up the phone or start writing the letter.

  3. Wilton Blake says:

    Great post! It’s important to speak the language of your audience.

  4. […] Dick over at A Small Change gives us a lesson on knowing the three donor […]

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