Sometimes Donors Just Give

I have always held the belief that it is important to help a donor to understand what their gift can mean to the organization. I get excited when I have the opportunity to partner a donor with a specific need. I love being able to tell a story about the difference that their gift or giving made. But what happens when your donor does not have that same interest?

I’ve started a number of donor prospecting conversations talking with donors about how they would like to make a difference in their community discussing what issues they are the very most passionate about. This is a great conversation starter for a lot of people enabling me to have a conversation about the kind of change that gets them the very most excited. But some people don’t think this way. Many don’t take an objective outsiders look at how they would like to impact their world. Talking about specific stories seems to have greater success in these kinds of conversations.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few conversations where I’ve discovered that I am rather limited in my understanding of how I’ve traditionally classified donors. I’ve spoken with a number of donors who make a regular gift in memory of a loved one who has passed away. My first expectation was that these individuals would want to give to improve the program or make a situation better for individuals who had a similar experience as them. But I have found, in this situation, they would like to be left alone and hearing to many details regarding the impact of their gift is too sensitive of an area to discuss.

I would love to hear from you. What conversations have you had with donors that did not happen in the way you expected? How do you handle ongoing donors that are made in memory of a loved one? How do you talk about impact with a donor who does not think that way?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

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2 Responses to Sometimes Donors Just Give

  1. I appreciate this article and the excitement that I agree comes when the elements of us doing our job aligns with donors seeking to accomplish their objectives! We owe it to our prospects and donors to be good stewards and when we achieve win-win scenarios it elevates their giving experience and the trust in our organization on so many levels. Having managed memorial gifts and annual fund programs what comes to mind may seem as “plain as day” and is perhaps not exactly what is sought here — but it is the importance in focusing less or even completely abandoning having a selling angle and figuring them out as donors or opportunities, and instead getting to know and respect them and like them as real people. Particularly with those who are giving in memory of a loved one, you are right, this is a sensitive area and quite often they are still themselves feeling an absence in their lives, a sadness that giving this gift can sometimes lessen as it keeps their loved one alive. In a world where people are unsure of who they can really trust anymore, some donors want to keep their personal reasons to themselves, can sense that they are a target from a mile away, and just want to give without being cultivated. When they see that we “get that”, they will respect us more. Showing that we value them and treating them as friends year-round apart from an immediate response to their gift also demonstrates our genuine care for them. Every name on the page, envelope received and phone call that comes in is an opportunity to make a new genuine friend, and in doing so the other answers in time naturally reveal themselves. This all does take time, which we development professionals guard with our lives. However I have never found that time to be wasted and long after departing, some of these folks are still personal friends and have also increased their giving to the organization where I worked. Happy Holidays!

  2. Great topic!
    It occurs, and not so rarely, to meet donors that, as you say, just want to give. It happened to me to meet donors after a cold call and, in the time of a brief presentation meeting, to have a “yes” for the gift. This in something about 30 minutes of even less! Well, in this cases, what I think is that these generous people are motivated much much more by their personal and familiar culture and attitude to giving than focusing on this or that project. And, if this is just good in very short term, I think (and I tested!) that it is a menace in the middle and long term: not only this kind of donor are really poorly interested in being updated about the impact od their gift but, and this is quite incredible, you can discover that they didn’t even fully understood what your project is about, or that don’t remember you in a particular way!
    In these cases that, I state, are many more than one could expect, nurturing relations is a hard work, so hard that sometimes it comes to nothing. It happened to me to meet great people who gave major gifts after just a little more than a bit of chatting: well, 70% of the times their generosity turned (at least, to our projects) to a one-shot gift. Maybe here in Italy things run different than in the rest of the world?!

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