Bring Your Donors Closer

We were talking about how important it is for fundraisers to work their database.  Most of us are small enough that, really, we could call every single donor at least once a year.  But, one of the participants commented, “You can’t.  No one is talking about the fact that no one uses their landlines anymore, and we don’t have their cell phone numbers.” Good point.  I certainly don’t answer my landline.  All I get is automated calls or telemarketers from my bank.  It’s become like the hotmail account I opened  for when I shop online…buy one thing and everyday for the rest of your life, you get three emails offering you “bargains” on things you didn’t want in the first place.

So, okay, making a call may be a little difficult.  But focusing in that direction is yet another case of concentrating on what you cannot accomplish.  Let’s think about what you can do.

I know I sometimes sound like your maiden Aunt Harriet, but handwritten notes on nice stationery really do get read.  Phone messages do get listened to.  Instead of starting that message with your name and organization—which may make the listener assume you are simply calling for a gift—start with the purpose of the call.  “Hi John.  Thank you so much for helping us keep more than 200 kids in school…” or whatever it is that John’s gift supported.  Then tell John who you are, your organization and what next step you want to take.

That next step may be a visit or a tour of your facility.  Don’t have a facility?  Your donor is three states away?  How about asking for some advice or feedback?  It doesn’t have to be something big—a colleague recently asked 40 donors to comment on a new design for the newsletter.  Twenty-two people called her back to tell her their thoughts.  Twenty-two people she got to connect with and bring just a little bit closer to her organization.

That’s what you really want to do.  Bring your donors inside.  Make them feel part of that family nonprofits love to talk about.  What you don’t want to do is to make every contact be about raising money.

By now we should all know that fundraising is about relationships and that relationships are not built on asking the other to constantly give.  There has to be a give as well as a take for any relationship to work.

When I first started in fundraising, that “give” on our part was too often a product—a mug, a plaque, something tangible with our name on it.  And, like special events, there are reasons and times when those work.  But the give that has meaning is kind of like a hug.  It brings the other closer.

That’s the value of social media for nonprofits.  Yes, in some cases, it works for fundraising, but it is so much more effective as a communication and connecting tool.  Media like Facebook allows you to give information out and provides your supporters a forum to say what your organization means to them.  In other words, focus on the “social” aspects.

But do remember that not everyone likes to be part of a crowd.  Some of us prefer solitude and the hand reaching out only to us.  Offer than hand and you will have a friend—and a donor—for life.

Janet Levine is a consultant and trainer working with nonprofits to improve their productivity and increase their capacity.  Check out her classes and services at