Category Archives: Donor Communications

GIVING SIGNALS: Clearly Defining Successful and Unsuccessful Donor Visits

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Feedback loops can be either positive or negative, causing things to quickly go from bad to worse or from good to great. Feedback loops can be applied to almost any kind of system—social, political, or economic—including nonprofit fund development systems. Over the last few years, a typical feedback loop at nonprofits is one that has led to the abandonment of quality donor communications, particularly person-to-person visits and actual conversations with donors. One thing has led to another, which has led to another, which turned into a vicious cycle. Continue reading

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LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE: Senior Development Executive’s Role in Evaluating Donor Visits

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Nonprofit leaders are very good at tracking past performance—each donor’s giving history and each fundraiser’s contribution to the budget. However, nonprofit leaders tend to be far less committed to consistently and carefully evaluating our ongoing donor visits. In other words, our evaluations are so focused on past performance that we’re usually not as good at identifying future giving signals in our ongoing conversations with individual donors. Two conversations illustrate my point. Continue reading

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THE LISTENING HABIT: The Donor’s Story and the Organizational Story

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Many companies are attempting to brand themselves as having a deeply embedded culture of listening. I really don’t know if these companies and their employees actually listen to their clients and constituents any better than their competitors or if the listening promotion is merely a marketing slogan. What I do know is this: In thousands of conversations with donors over the years, I have come to realize that often THE DONOR’S STORY is just as important as your organizational story. Occasionally, it is FAR MORE IMPORTANT. Continue reading

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THE PREPARATION HABIT: Making the Most of Your Donor Visits

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Building long-term donor relations is an acquired skill that’s perfected over time. You can’t just wander in and expect to be successful because you “really, really love people.” Nor can you build a successful career by simply working hard. If it were as simple as that, a lot more fundraisers would be a lot more successful. The truth is, there are communications, management, and organizational skills at every level that are just down right essential. Continue reading

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RULE OF RECIPROCITY: Exchanging the Currency of Philanthropy

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One of the most powerful social norms is the rule of reciprocity. When we receive gifts, favors, invitations, or random acts of kindness, it creates a very real sense of personal indebtedness—a felt-need to pay back the favor. If, however, receiving gifts creates such a strong feeling of personal indebtedness, then career fundraisers are on the unfortunate side of that equation. Below are several ways fundraisers use the “currency of philanthropy” to build genuine reciprocal relationships among major donors.

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DONOR VISITS: Setting Up Those Relationship-Building Conversations

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Imagine having a long list of major donors just waiting for the chance to spend a little time with you. They all want to tell you about themselves, hear about your cause, and hope to build a long-term relationship… Early in my career, I dreamed often of such a job but unfortunately would wake up and return to the reality that there was nothing unusually interesting about me that would attract attention. I was just a regular guy who felt great compassion for those his organization served. As excited as I was about the organization, it was very difficult to find people willing to meet with me to talk about it. “Maybe,” I periodically said to myself, “I was not cut out for this kind of work.” Continue reading

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PLUGGING THE LEAKS: The True Impact of a 1% Increase in Your Donor Retention Rate

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Trying to fill a bucket that leaked as quickly as you could pour water into it would be a frustrating way to spend your day—or your career. That’s how many fundraising professionals feel when all the gains they make in donor acquisition are lost in the next year to donor attrition. Below is a summary of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2016 report along with a few of my own comments about strategy and the true impact of an increased donor retention rate. Continue reading

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