Friday, January 22, 2016

Knowing your Donors Differently

Many fundraising professionals build deep and meaningful relationships with donors. Understanding what motivates someone's generosity and passion is crucial. We spend a great deal of time researching prospects, cultivating relationships and achieving success closing gifts. But how well do we know a donor? We may know their capacity, their giving history and the story of their success. But do you know what makes them tick, the things we need to learn in order to surprise and delight the donor? I would challenge the assumption of how well our profession does knowing our donors in another way. Are we asking the tough questions that sometimes make us uncomfortable?

One of the exercises we often go through in order to build custom stewardship plans entails having those with a relationship with the donor all in one room to discuss that donor. We ask questions like:
What does the donor want their legacy to be? Give three adjectives to describe the donor. Who is their favorite and least favorite person at the organization?  and there are many more. We hold off on building a custom plan for that donor until we can answer all 10 or so deep dive questions, looking at the donor in a new and intriguing way in order to match their passion with our donor relations, engaging them in the process. 

Sometimes it takes a simple exercise like asking those important questions, sometimes it's about doing research in a new way. For example, many of our top donors also serve us in a volunteer capacity, by sitting on a board or volunteering. Why not have a professional come in and do some personality exercises to get to know them on a deeper level? For example, Meyers Briggs with all of your board members or DISC or Strength finders or predictive index. I keep all of those handy for me so that when I work with clients or on speaking engagements, people can read those and learn a great deal about me from those results. Or have you heard about Crystal? Check it out here: you can view the best way to communicate with a person based on empathy and the information available in their public profiles. Try it on yourself, you may be surprised and how much it reveals about your personality just from your online communications.

Once you get to know donors in a more authentic and multi-dimensional way, record that information for posterity in your database of record. Remember the average life-span of a fundraiser at and organization is 16 months, so make sure that institutional knowledge isn't lost when staff turnover happens. How do you get to know your donors better? What questions do you ask in order to learn about them in a different way? I would love to hear your thoughts.



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