Have you ever been somewhere with someone and thought "this is exactly where I belong right now"? I know it sounds vague at first, but imagine if we gave that feeling to our donors time and time again. The ultimate goal of enlightened philanthropy is to pair the donor's needs and desires to do good in the world with your organizations fundraising priorities. In order to do this in a heightened manner two things are inextricable, the donor's desire and the organization's priorities. In THAT order. It doesn't work if you're constantly trying to shove your funding initiatives upon an uninterested party.
The same bodes true for donor relations. We need to match our donors'
desires for gratitude, accountability and recognition with our
offerings. That's a donor focused program. It's difficult to make an
individual fit into a system that wasn't built for them.
What I see a great deal is donor relations work that relies on process
and policy and not necessarily to the highest philanthropic aim. Donors
tell us time and time again they want three things; access, information
and experiences. How do we provide them with
the memorable? How do we demonstrate for them the impact of their
philanthropy on our organizations? In some cases it can be easily
accomplished, others allow us the opportunity to stretch our skills
The ultimate in donor relations and engagement usually surrounds having a
donor meet the recipient of their generosity or see their money in
action. This type of interaction tends to leave a lasting impression on
both parties involved and directly connects
donors to their dollars.
At a certain point of wealth a person has enough coasters, public
recognition and plaques. But most philanthropists never stop learning,
seeking new experiences and ways to help others. It is our job and
pleasure to connect them inextricably to their philanthropic
When I want to convey this message to leadership I usually ask them to
close their eyes and remember a time when they were really grateful at a
certain time and place. Usually they can recall it vividly. Then
translate that to your donors. What do we do to
go above and beyond, to surprise and delight them? One of the key
factors I look for in a great donor relations professional is that
somewhat elusive "attitude of gratitude". I find that it is very
difficult for someone who isn't grateful and thankful in their
daily lives to be a wonderful fit in donor relations. You have to be a
giver, full of gratitude and ways to share that with others.
Donors innately sense this. They know when the thank is sincere and when
there is an ulterior motive. Gratitude is a lifestyle, and one I'm
proud to carry with me wherever I go. How do we as donor relations
professionals make this gratitude infectious? Transmitting
this to others is just as important to our career as metrics and
numbers, plans and strategy. What will you do today to have others
understand that for many people that moment of sincere gratitude is like
a moment of warm sunshine after a long winter.