Know Your Donor

Who are your donors and how do they align with your organization?

Within any donor relationship, there are four key puzzle pieces that must be put in place before asking a donor to significantly invest in your ministry. Let’s look at all four:

Your Donor’s Capacity

It’s important to understand what your donor is capable of and how to best use your officer’s time when it comes to investing in each relationship. You want your gift officers to be, as we say in Texas, “fishing in the right pond.” In other words, if your officers are spending a significant amount of time with donors who don’t have the capacity to move the needle to achieve your organizational goals, you may need to re-evaluate which donors should be in portfolio.

Now, does it mean that you only put donors in a portfolio that have the capacity to give an enormous gift? Not at all! You need to prioritize donors that love your ministry and have a desire to invest in the mission.

And that begins with deciding which donors should be on an officer’s portfolio based on past gift history and the ability to make a significant gift to your organization. You can easily measure the donor’s ability, or capacity, by placing your data through a wealth screening service to uncover critical data points to help make a final determination before assigning them to an officer’s portfolio.

Your Donor’s Understanding 

The second puzzle piece is to make sure the donor understands why your organization exists and how you are making a difference in the community, around the country, or throughout the world. Many donors may be able to list specific projects and programs, but do they truly understand why your organization exists? Do they know why you were founded, your purpose, and why you’re choosing to do what you do?

Once the donor understands why you exist and the heart behind your mission, they can better determine if they would like to invest in your organization’s cause.

Your Donor’s Trust

The third piece of the puzzle involves you, as an organization, building trust with your donors. Certainly, this begins with the gift officer building that one-on-one relationship. But it reaches far beyond that one relationship! It reaches to the executive team and how they are achieving the organization’s brand promise.

Are you honoring your promises through programmatic impact? Are you transparent about the impact your donor’s gift has made?

Oftentimes, a major donor will not give a large gift upfront. Instead, they’ll give what we like to call a “test gift.” They want to see how you steward this relationship and how you communicate the impact before they ever make a commitment to invest in a significant way. They want to build your relationship on trust. 

For instance, if I invest $10,000 in a well to provide water for children in Africa, I want to hear an update that the well now exists and has been bringing water for “x” amount of time. I want to know that the well has shortened the duration of time the people have to walk in order to get fresh water. Even better, I want to see images and proof of the value of my gift.

Trust is vital, as is transparency with the information you provide to the donor in the weeks and months following their gift.

Your Donor’s Mission

God has given each of us a unique heartbeat for His passions, calling, desires, and His will. When you realize that each donor is wired differently, you’re able to see who best aligns with your mission. One donor’s heart may beat for needy children while another donor’s heart may beat for program expansion or evangelism. Once you understand who the donor is, be sure to maintain transparency about who you are as an organization and how the two of you align.

While this is the most critical piece of the puzzle, it’s often the last piece. At the moment when all four pieces come together, you’ll be able to clearly see how you align with the heartbeat of the donor and how, together, you can have a greater impact.

If you want to know more about donor relations, check out my Dunham Institute course The Value of Donor Research.

More Insights from Dunham+Company: “What to Carry When You Meet with Major Donors”

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Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.