Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Enlightened Donor Relations... Do you have it?

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 considerably.

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 priorities.

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.



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