I am fortunate that as part of my travels I have the wonderful opportunity to listen to many wonderful speakers. This past week, one of the speakers I had the good fortune to hear was explaining the relationship between major donors and organizations. Among his many salient points was the following nugget that I quickly added into my iPad to discuss with you. "Recognition is not motivational, stewardship is, Trust is experiential" profound in its simplicity eh? But it really strikes at the core of not only what we do as fundraising professionals but also why we do it.
Let's boil it down into its parts and then look at the whole in terms of the relationships we ask people to have with our organizations. Recognition is not motivational: this strikes close to home, especially when you examine the amount of time fundraisers spend on public recognition of gifts, falsely believing that entrance into the platinum giving society over the titanium one will motivate a donor to stroke and extra big check this time. It also relates back to my post last week on donor honor rolls. Very very seldom do these types of recognition motivate donors to give, yet we seem to spend a great deal of time in their service.
Stewardship is motivational: amen. If you as a nonprofit, spend my money according to the purpose it was given, tell me how you spent the money and then tell me the impact it had on others, I'll give to you forever. Stewardship builds loyalty, it reinforces good behavior and builds trust in the organization. As many of you know, I think Charity Water is the best in the business at this. They not only tell me how they spend my money, they send me the GPS coordinates of the well my funds helped drill! They do this regardless of the amount of my gift. How come other nonprofits, universities included, fail so spectacularly at this? We ask, nearly beg, for unrestricted funding, yet these are the folks we communicate with about the impact of their giving the least. How does this make sense? If there is truly an area of greatest need, then for the love of all that is holy, tell me what that need was and how my money made a difference! It doesn't have to be glamorous, tell me I paid the light bill. Bought reams of copy paper, anything, but tell me something!
Trust is experiential. If you've ever been burned by giving your trust too freely you can literally still feel the sting of betrayal. It's a palpable feeling that never does seem to recede all the way. When an organization breaks a donor's trust, the road is long and hard and full of painful rocks. Many years of good relationship building is lost in one simple breech of trust, and safe to say in many cases, people aren't forgiving, nor should they be. You solicit a donor for money and then don't spend it because your department chair is saving for the day Bruce Willis arrives on a spaceship? Well that's a tough second ask now isn't it? There's forgiving, and then there's blind trust. Your organization must be trustworthy in order to have donors invest in it and maintain their giving.
How do you feel about the significance of these words we use very often in our world? Are there other profound simplicities here? I'd love to hear from you.