Category Archives: Stewardship

There are donors and then there are donors!!

This past week I was away from Seattle doing client work for a national organization with many programs around the country and the world.  They are doing incredibly good work for a large number of people and have significant volunteer and donor support.  Over the past four years they have seen a decline in their giving to one particular program and they are attempting to discover why—hence our firm’s involvement.

One of their affiliates arranged for two focus groups.  The first was comprised of people who did not support this particular program, the second was comprised of people who did.  It was a wonderful contrast of communication, style, personality, trust and values.

A common trait was that both groups are generous and both groups significantly give of their resources especially for local programs.  I find it very rewarding to be around generous people: they know who they are; they know what they value; they care about the community, their neighbors and people they may never know.  It was enjoyable to discuss the programs with both groups, who asked specific, well-stated questions.

Here are several things I discovered from these two groups:

  • Some people just need more information than others.  The donor group was trusting and required little information to respond to the need.  The non-donor group needed a lot of data and felt they were not getting it.
  • Some people judge an organization as a whole, while others are selective in their judgment.  The non-donor group had larger issues with the national organization and although those issues did not relate to the program being discussed, it kept them from responding to the financial need.  The donor group had the ability to put aside any issues they may have around other national policies or procedures and respond to this particular need.
  • “Connectivity” is different for different people.  The individuals in the non-donor group felt more connected locally and wondered why a national connection was necessary.  The donor group felt connections both locally and nationally.  They valued being connected nationally because they, as individuals, could do even more and have greater impact on people’s lives, than they ever could as an individual or local group.

After the time spent with both groups, I also discovered the importance of leadership around these three observations.  Leadership (staff and volunteer) needs to take the observations above to heart as they communicate with both donors and non-donors.  Why are these programs important?  Why must we respond to the need the programs are addressing?  What is the impact now?  What will be the impact in the future?  Will you join with me and the many others in our organization who financially support these programs in giving what you can?

As you reflect on the ideas and observations here, let me or the other readers know your thoughts or experiences around donors and non-donors.  I look forward to reading your comments.

All the best,

Tom

Keeping in Touch

Thank you to my colleague, Debbie Marchione, for her post last week on communications.  A simple concept – yet often over looked.  She illustrated that we have many ways to communicate these days and we need to do our best to take advantage of those communication lines.

Communications is an active process, a thoughtful process and even a deliberate process.  It does not come easy and requires work on the part of the communicator and the receiver.  For the most part we are the communicators seeking to give information to the receiver.  The receiver is mostly passive and we may not be sure (unless we take Debbie’s advice) that our message is getting across to them.

Last summer I was at a meeting with other consultants listening to a panel presentation comprised of significant foundation executives.  One of the representatives told a story that the only time he heard from any charity is when it wanted more money.  No one ever talked with him to ask for advice or counsel, to give him updates on the last grant or to provide data or information in a general way on the issues an organization may be addressing by fulfilling its mission.  In other words, communication was very “thin” and did not allow for relationships to be formed in a meaningful way.

About 25 years ago (before the computer age) I was attending a workshop at an AFP Conference and the late John Miltner, who at the time was the Vice Chancellor for University Relations at UC Irvine, was speaking about donor communications and relationship building.  During the course of his talk he opened his briefcase and took out 50 four by six index cards and indicated that these cards represented the 50 most important donors to UC Irvine.  At the time I thought to myself, “Do I know who my 50 most important donors are?”

On each card he had birth dates, anniversary dates, children’s names, addresses, phone numbers, the last contact date with the donor, the next contact date planned and who would be the contact leader from the University.  UC Irvine probably had over 10,000 donors, yet these were the Top 50 and John kept them with him all the time, working the list and utilizing the Chancellor or a Dean to keep the lines of communication open on a one to one basis.  John knew how to “keep in touch” with those who had made or could make significant contributions to his University.

Who are your Top 50 current or potential donors?  How are you “keeping in touch” with them?  Share your ideas and strategies so that others might learn from you.  I look forward to your thoughts.

All the best,

Tom