The Donor Relationship: What Am I Doing Wrong?

Donor cultivation is a lot like dating.

When you take interest in someone, you take time to get to know them. And you take the initiative to keep the relationship growing. The more you like them, the more you interact with them.

The same goes for donor development. The more you can get in front of a donor and give them the content they’re looking for, and the more relevant you are to them, the stronger the relationship will be.

So how can you maximize the generosity of your donors and move them to be as generous as possible? The first step is to understand fundraising from a theological perspective.

Did you know that you actually play a role in motivating your donors to give towards God’s kingdom purposes?

In Exodus 25, God makes it clear to Moses that it is his responsibility to gather the nation of Israel and challenge them to give. And Exodus 35 gives account of the first recorded fundraiser.

God chose to use Moses because people don’t naturally give things away. They must be challenged to do so.

So here are a few practical steps in motivating your donors to be as generous as possible…

Give a clear vision of what their support can do.

Oftentimes, organizations fail to cast a vision and communicate the impact of the donor’s support. That vision could be as simple as this: “Your gift can transform a life.”

It’s never about the transaction, rather, it’s about seeding a vision into the mind of the donor and giving them a clear picture of the impact of their gift.

How do you do that? You tell a story.

You want to unpack for donors the idea that when they give, these kind of things happen. Tell the story of an individual whose life has been transformed. Perhaps you are a radio station and someone heard a song that brought them back to Christ. Or maybe you’re a cause-based organization and because of the donor’s support a child is no longer sick thanks to a water well providing clean water.

When you tell the story, you’re connecting your donor’s gift to the actual transformation of a life. And that’s what ultimately motivates support.

Understand why they support you.

Do you know your average donor’s demographic and age? Do you know how they engage with media? All of this will inform and shape how you communicate with your donors most effectively.

It’s so important to understand what messages resonate with your specific donors in order to move them to action. Does your messaging tell them that you’re addressing what they care about most?

Identify what sets you apart.

It’s your job to help the donor understand what is unique about your organization. How are you different from all the other like-minded, like-caused, or like-missioned nonprofits? Are you speaking to the unique DNA of your organization? 

Give a clear call to action.

This is direct response 101. Simplify. Give the donor one thing to do. What’s the singular call to action? The clearer you are on that, the better your response will be.

You always want the donor to be making a yes/no decision not an either/or. Put it in their hand and give them the power to make that yes or no decision.

All in all, stay true to who you are. Communicate effectively what you’re about and the outcomes you are focused on. Then, connect the donor to those outcomes based on their decision to give.

Certain things are out of your control (i.e., stock market, public policy, state of the economy). But take responsibility for what isn’t: Your relationship with your donors.


More Insights from Dunham+Company:  “Get to Know Today’s Planned Giving Donors”

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.