5 Steps to Authentic Relationships with Donors 

Authentic relationships is key to success of a high number of donors renewing their commitment annually.

Donor renewal is reestablishment or continuation of the relationship with the donor.  The focus is with the donor recognizing their desire to join and help the mission and its beneficiaries. Donors report they will give more and more often if they feel meaningfully connected.

The renewal process recognizes the humanness of the donor. I refer to it as connecting with the donor in a real human-2-human (H2H) way.  When the donor feels seen, they want to continue their involvement.  The donor’s interest, gift, and experience becomes a partnership they want to extend.

Would you like to increase individual donor renewal? I encourage you to try some small experiments to create a more H2H experience for you, your donors and others in the organization.

Here are 5 suggestions to help create meaningful connections with donors.   

  1. See your donors. Emails, letters or conversations that don’t recognize them as donors makes them feel unimportant and unseen as people who care. For example, in sending email to a donor reference her as partner or on the same team.

  2. Use human-like and kind language like partner, share, invite, and join.  Donors will feel they belong and are connected to the work the organization is doing.

  3. See donors as people.  As humans we are wired to help. We will support missions we connect with and care about.  Thank donors for caring, their commitment and for being a team member in addition to their money.  

  4. Connect with the donor in a meaningful way for them.  Enable donors to connect with the mission in ways that matter to them.  Begin by asking the donor questions, like, why the mission is important to them or what they would like to learn.  Think like a donor in an empathic way, remembering they give from their heart.   

  5. Confirm the importance of their continuing support with stories that tell how the organization is meeting programs goals and serving beneficiaries.  You can also share challenges and disappointments.  Connect with the donor’s heart and not their money.

For the fundraiser and organization raising the money is a priority. For the donor, money isn’t what motivates their decision to make a gift.  

Donors give with their heart and desire. For donors it is the mission and how it serves beneficiaries and communities. Connect donors with an invitation to join in serving the mission as partners with other donors, leaders, and staff.  Both the donors and the organization are involved for the same reason… serve the mission.

Happy and fulfilled donors renew their donations confirming their commitment. High donor renewal rates enable a more sustainable individual giving program.  Please share your thoughts, questions, and advice to create a culture engaging a community for renewing donors.  

To learn more, contact me for a free session on how you can increase donor renewal in your program for individual donors.

Shifting the Paradigm for Making a Difference

Fundraisers value people’s desire to help as they decide to support missions they care about.  We want donors to affirm their giving decisions by renewing year after year. 

Their choice to give or renew isn’t about money.  It is about experience and connection.

Think about this. If you want to go to the beach, you think about the sky, the waves, and the sun, and you jump into your car.  Desire motivates us to take action.  We will use what we have to get us there as the means to get what we want. 

If children’s theater is important to me, I want it to continue giving so I can experience the value of my help. It is worth my money to support whatever mission is meaningful to me.  How I make my gift or how much I give doesn’t matter.  My motivation is to perpetuate something I love and to participate with a mission that I care about, and that benefits my community.

When the fundraiser supports the donor’s desire to help and belong, the donor experiences a meaningful connection.  The fundraiser accepts donors as people who care, making them partners intent on serving the mission.

As the facilitator of the donor’s experience, the fundraiser has a wonderful opportunity to share the joy of giving and receiving, which in turn inspires continuing support.

Donors are real people looking for connection and ways to help.  Belonging is the reward for them to continue giving. 

Fundraisers must be the leaders changing the fundraising culture to one of belonging and renewing.

What are the challenges to prioritize donor renewal?

Check out my Facebook page “Professional Fundraiser Join Together” – it’s a place to share challenges and find ways to inspire renewing donors. If you want, it will become a professional support group (PSG) building a new giving culture.

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Thinking of donors as human beings

Words like targets, stewardship, retain, pipeline, recurring gifts are used to refer to donors.

Use of these words gets in the way of creating authentic relationships with donors and real people who care about the mission.

Fundraisers are pushed to get the money, not build relationships based on the mission. People who make gifts to join in support of a mission are recognized for the amount of their gift, not for the long commitment to the mission.

A result of donors not focusing on the donor as a human being is one of the reasons they don’t renew.  When we don’t prioritize renewal the donor and the organization/mission miss an opportunity.  Renewing donors create a community of support that strengthens the work of the mission.  And it enables the donors to be connected and belong with people who care about the same thing they do.

This change is harder than you think.  Being interested in the donor, learning why they care, what they want to know, or what they have to share in addition to money is new for fundraisers.  We work in a culture that expects us to raise money not deepen donors connection with the mission.

Look again at the words in the first sentence. 

Using these words keeps us from looking at  donors as humans. What if we instead used:  interested people, relationship, renew, list of of donors, potential donors,  or renewing donors.  It is a beginning to see donors as humans not money. 

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Reciprocity or Exchange for Giving

Reciprocity or Exchange for Giving

Foundation, business, or event funding have reciprocity or exchange for funding built into their support.  

Foundations ask for why you need the money to learn if the reason matches their interests and goals. They require follow up reports to be informed of the benefits of funding. Reciprocity is in knowing they supported a need in their community and met a goal. 

What are your thoughts about donor renewal?

I have written a few articles focusing on the building connections with donors to inspire renewal.  In this article I am inviting you share your thoughts, questions, or challenges on donor renewal.  It would be great to begin a conversation all readers.  I will respond to your comments.

Since I know that currently annual giving renewal of donors leaves fundraisers spending much time looking new people.  It becomes the top question in our minds. The goal we are trying to reach is a financial one.  The pressure on the executive director and members of the board is to have money to fund the mission’s programs.  There is no donor renewal goal.  There is no judgement made on donor renewal.  Many organizations don’t know their renewal rate.

We have developed excellent skills at getting new people.  We focus on getting the money to the point that people who give larger gifts are the ones remembered. Fundraisers are successful at this model of operation.  So why and how does donor renewal become a good thing.  If there are 50 donors giving $50,000 and they all renew the money stays the same.  But the work changes and the fundraiser’s focus and skills need to adjust.

According to reports smaller organizations especially are having a hard time meeting financial goals.  With fundraisers changing jobs in 2 years or less it is hard to build meaningful donor connections with the mission.  

Is it possible to build a “community of donors” who renew every year?  Can we create fundraising system that enables the fundraiser to focus on connecting donors (current and lapsed) with the mission?  Can we reduce searching for new people to <10%?

What support does a fundraiser need?  How does the relationship with the executive director and the board members need to change?  What skills would fundraiser want to develop?  

Your ideas, thoughts, questions, or challenges are encouraged.  Not one of us can do this alone.  We need a community of professionals who want to have find happiness in recognizing generosity and fundraising.

Please make you comments and conversation respectful.  I look forward to your ideas.

Inviting Donors to Join the Mission: How it Works

Last week the focus of my article was “asking” and “giving”.    Now we can transform that way of thinking.  “Inviting” and “Joining” will change the work and interaction between donors and fundraisers.

This is not just semantics, it changes the experience for the “asker”.  Most people find asking for anything uncomfortable.  For donors the giving experience can feel like throwing money into an organization without real connection.  The fundraiser focuses on getting closer to their financial goal and the donor experiences giving money to the organization.  In the moment of the transaction both can feel satisfied.

When inviting a person to join the organization as a supporter, the donor experiences an interaction that feels like a partnership.  In this invitation donors are engaged as people, joining the leaders and staff serving their community.  Donors are insiders.  When they are connected to the mission and understand the value of their investment they, want to renew. The experience of the being asked for their money is diminished.  The giving experience is changed.

Connecting with the donor and their belief in the mission will motivate them to learn more of the mission service and the value of the organization’s programs to their community.  Their engagement with the mission supports their renewal.

Penelope Burk’s Annual Donor Survey (2014)  www.cygresearch.com reports when asked 67% of donors would renew and 52% would make a larger gift.  When people feel they belong, are helping, with meaningful connections, they will want renew.

Donors are real partners with organization’s leaders and staff serving a community need.  We all know, organizations are formed to meet a community needs and it takes a collaboration of people to create successful service for that community.  This means leaders, professionals, volunteers and donors are partners.  Let’s invite donors to be partners.

Mission Centered Fundraising (MCF) makes interaction more important that transaction.  It is a 3-part system to involve donors in long-term relationship as partners, renewing their support annually.  Let’s have a conversation on how you can begin to provide Mission Centered Fundraising for individual donors.