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,