I am constantly being asked to help people come up with ideas and plans to help steward their donors. Last week alone, I fielded requests for designing a high end gift society to creating a stewardship plan in detail from scratch. Each time I receive a blanket request like this or read an obtusely vague question on one of the listservs, the first question that pops into my mind is always, "Have you asked your donors what they want?"
In reality, I can give you some generalizations based on trends, some emerging ideas and other ideas that I have proven successful over time at different institutions. However what I cannot produce, without time and research is exactly what will work for your donor base and population. I have found that far too often, we as donor relations professionals spend too much time planning for what we think donors will want, without even asking them first! Every time I go to a consulting job, one of the most important meetings for me as I do my analysis is to have dinner with a group of highly engaged donors and volunteers. I learn so much from them and while generally their needs are similar, most times, they vary widely. This brings me to a hot topic I've been dealing with lately, surveying. How many of you survey your donors, formally or informally? Why? Why NOT? It is a wonderful, cost effective way to receive feedback from your target audience, it also allows for wonderful substantiation of your work to leadership and key decision makers. It also will greatly aid your strategic planning efforts. So here are a few examples of surveying your donors, followed by some links to actual surveys from organizations.
1. Survey monkey/online surveying following an event or new initiative, not just to those who participated, but also to those that didn't- what motivated them not to?
2. A survey included with your endowment or annual reports- asking them if the information was clear, if there is more they need from you, who else should receive this in the future and also if you can send it digitally in PDF from now on!
3. A small focus group of donors and volunteers -perhaps over lunch to talk about how they feel your organization treats them after they give-- make sure this group includes a sample of your donors, not just major givers, and all ages too!!
4. Phone calls to spot check how things are going, informal yet informative!
If you have comments or questions please email me, comment here or find me on Twitter @donorguru
Also, send me your samples and I will share them too!
Links to Forms: