How to build better relationships with your givers

Do you want better relationships with your givers?

Chip Johnston

“It’s sad how quickly people can forget about you until they want something from you.”

Does this quote make you cringe when you consider what your donors might think about their relationship with your organization? Well, if the only time they hear from you is to discuss that next gift, I’m quite certain, on some level, this is how they feel and the result is mounting levels of donor fatigue.

Now this is quite the conundrum. If you’re in donor development or direct response, isn’t your primary responsibility to raise money in support of the mission for your organization? If that’s true, what now? Do you give them some time to recover by engaging less frequently? Nope. How about inviting them to an event, feed them a nice meal and then ask them for a check? Not really. Oh, I know, we can ask them to be a team captain for our upcoming walkathon so they can hit up their friends and family for money for us. Close, but no dice.

The answer is actually pretty simple, just stop asking them for money. I know what you’re probably thinking, “this is nice and all, but it’s completely detached from reality. I have fundraising goals and we need financial support to accomplish our mission.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suggesting you stop asking for money all together. I’m merely suggesting we reframe the conversation on occasion. This will relieve some of the aforementioned donor fatigue, and at the same time, further deepen the relationship.

Here’s an example. As opposed to staying solely focused on their financial capacity, you can start to go deeper by developing an understanding of your givers’ “social capacity”. Social capital is made up of, how many connections a giver has on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, how many relationships they have with other supporters of your organization and how many of your donors live near them. Developing an understanding of, and ultimately leveraging, the amount of social capital your donor has allows you to engage on a topic other than money and ask them to advocate to their relational network on your behalf. This is a great way to change the conversation, and in the process, demonstrate that you know them on a much deeper level, outside of just what they can do for you financially. They will appreciate this – and as a result, it can increase their affinity to your organization which will in turn inspire future generosity. As an added bonus, you gain exposure to a whole new universe of new potential supporters through the advocacy to their relational network. Win-win!

For us to truly understand our givers on a personal level, it requires that we get outside the boundaries of our own universe. We have to intentionally seek out this information and build a profile that represents who are they are holistically, and not just in terms of what they mean to us but who they really are.

So let’s stop making our givers feel like an ATM and start making them feel like the valued, capable, loyal friends they truly are!

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