Three things a donor never forgets

| by Bert Armstrong

Take 30 seconds and think of three special memories that jump out in your mind.  They can be from your childhood, school, family, work, etc. No need to write them down. Just rattle off the ones that jump into your mind.  Ready?  Go!

Here are mine:

  1. Water skiing and horseback riding on Thursday afternoons – my dad’s day off that he held sacred as family time.
  2. Getting married to Melanie; first child’s (Robert) birth; second child’s (Jenni) birth. Family is a packaged deal for me.
  3. Starting Armstrong McGuire with my dear friend, Tom. We’ve both found great satisfaction in building a successful business around our shared passion for philanthropy. 

I could list many more but I only gave myself 30 seconds.  And some memories should never be shared in an online blog!

Memorable moments, people, and events in our lives tend to stick with us.  These memories determine whether we look back on childhood, high school, college, past jobs and relationships with fondness, sadness, anger or some other emotions. 

Just like in other parts of our lives, past experiences weigh heavily on the perceptions we have of organizations we choose to support as donors.  If nonprofit organizations are interested in building lasting relationships with their donors, we must provide great engagement experiences for them.  I offer three things that donors never forget.  It’s up to you to determine if these experiences will be good or bad for your donors. 

1.  They never forget the way you asked them. 

Every donor deserves to be asked for their gift at the right time, in the right way, by the right person, for the right amount, and for the right reason. Understanding a donor’s readiness and reasons for giving is the real magic behind effective fundraising. If we want to make an impression on a donor, we need to do our homework so we get the ask right the first time. If our donor has the capacity and inclination to make a special gift, they should be asked in a special way.  Special donors deserve a real conversation with someone who cares just as much about the cause as they do. Too often we see fundraising staff, board members and campaign volunteers willing to do almost anything to avoid visiting with a donor face to face to ask for their support.  Just remember, the further away we are, the more impersonal our approach feels.  And the more impersonal our approach feels, the less we should expect from donors. They deserve our best effort, nothing less.

2.  They never forget the way you thanked them. 

Effective donor stewardship is at the heart of building lifelong relationships with donors. Did you acknowledge the gift in a timely manner?  Is that all you did?  Was there a personalized thank you letter? Was it signed by someone the donor would appreciate hearing from? Did someone call them or offer to stop by and thank them in person? Will they hear from you again – other than the next time you need their money?  Have we introduced them to someone who is benefiting from their support or shown them how their gift is impacting their community?  If they were interested in recognition, did we offer something that was appropriate and meaningful – hopefully not just a coffee mug or a magnet?

3.  They never forget the impact their investment has on someone else.

Donors care more about the results of our work and how we are touching lives and changing communities.  They care less about the operational needs and service delivery activities we engage in to get there. Successful organizations are always focused on results.  Telling stories of success lets donors know that their gifts, no matter how big or how small, made a real difference. 

Now let’s go create some special memories with your donors!

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