Topic: Inspiration

Donor Relationships

By Melanie Cecarelli

When I’m in a social setting and people learn I’m with a nonprofit consulting firm, it’s like being a CPA being asked a tax question or a physician being asked, “Does this look infected to you?” I usually get questions or comments about how nonprofits are missing an important feature when it comes to their donors, and that is the relationship.
A colleague shared their recent experience with me. They contacted a nonprofit three times within a three month period regarding a restricted gift they wanted to make to the organization. Now one would think the organization would jump at a non-solicited gift coming across their desk. There was no ask, no cultivation or stewardship involved. It was theirs for the taking. Then why would they let the offer stand idle? Is it because the nonprofit didn’t understand the need and the importance of a good donor relationship?
As nonprofit leaders, you know it takes time and energy to cultivate and build a relationship with a donor, especially one that you hope will grow into a major gift. Little stumbles like this have a lasting impression. Remember the saying it takes years to build a good reputation and only takes a minute to ruin it? Think about that when you ignore your donor or just see them as a means to an end to help you get achieve your philanthropy goals.

So, how do you think this story ends? Was the donor persistent in trying to make their gift? Did the organization finally contact them? And what did the organization do after the gift was received? Sounds a bit like a cliffhanger for a TV serial. At the end of the day, it’s up to nonprofits to embrace donors for their value and your worth…but that’s a topic for another day.

Ask yourself these questions.
How do you view your donors? Are you treating them as a one collective group? What are you doing to cultivate your repeat donors from a transactional into the translational relationship, especially when comes knocking at your door? Do you know the art and science behind the cultivation process?
It’s much more than frequent communications and the request for a gift. It’s about connecting the donor to your organization, and not to what you think is important to you but what is important to them and being sure it aligns with your overall goals. A donor suggested a “buy a brick” concept for a walkway at an art gallery and the program director ran with it. The few donations they received were outweighed by the actual cost of the materials and labor to install, and didn’t align with the gallery’s overall development initiative. Yes they had donors, but at what cost? And were these opportunities that could have been cultivated for something else?

How do you know what’s important to your donor? By listening and connecting with them, and not just once but multiple times. It’s not about coming out of the gate and asking for their gift, but understanding what motivates them to give to your organization. Are they interested in the outcomes or more interested in how the program operates? Do they want their dollars going to a program or are they more interested in capital improvements or longevity through an endowment or planned gift? It’s all about helping the donor grow alongside your organization. Cultivation.
And most of all, be responsive to your donors. Don’t keep them waiting especially when they come to you with a gift. Opportunity may knock more than once, but it’s not going to keep on knocking until you are ready to answer.

Servers and Rewarders

Not everyone is a giver. Connecticut Public Radio recently completed a two year project on ‘Giving’, and while many (most) of the people they interviewed applied to participate because they were givers, I’m sure the ones who did not respond to be interviewed were not givers. Not everyone is a giver.

One thing is for certain though – if you have donors then you have givers. These givers are people who have a desire to impact another’s life; offer themselves and their possessions to others. There are non-givers in the world, people who care nothing about other’s needs, but people in this latter category usually fall under the heading Narcissists and Sociopaths. For the most part, the majority of people are givers; it’s an innate part of our DNA. From infancy we have empathy for others that causes us to act to help.

But givers are not at all alike. In fact it is my opinion that there are two distinct types of givers.

SERVERS AND REWARDERS:

Husband and I are celebrating thirty years of marriage this year. This is remarkable because 1) Most marriages don’t last that long and 2) it’s a miracle that despite our vast differences, we are still together 30 years later. Ketchup on eggs/no ketchup on eggs; music as an alarm clock/silence is golden; Volunteer for everything/volunteer for nothing; in all ways he and I are as different as the proverbial night and day.

And when it comes to giving we remain distinctly at odds: fundamentally, I am a Server and he is a Rewarder.

As a server I tend to see others’ needs as they appear to me and then act to assist in some way. I seek to put others first, looking for ways to be a blessing upon someone who has done virtually nothing to ask or ‘earn’ it in anyway. If a person is struggling with full hands and is trying to enter the subway car, I’ll reach out to help. If I see someone being uncomfortable with silence or with a comment I jump in to comfort them (usually inserting foot into mouth along the way, but hey…). In most situations where I am moved to empathy by a person’s situation, I am also moved to act.

That’s not to say at all that my husband is not empathetic, kind, or not a giver. He is very much so, and often is brought to the brink of tears by others’ stories of struggle or injustice. It’s just that his pragmatic nature causes him to be more of a rewarder than a server.

For him, giving is triggered by people’s actions towards him or towards themselves. In this way giving is a reward, a reward for action. Recently we had a young visitor stay with us. My husband was his cordial self. But not very giving. The young man had a 16-foot truck full of stuff. Only after he asked my husband to help did hubby jump into full blown action, clearing places in the garage and hauling boxes. I on the other hand was already making virtual plans for assistance when I heard the news of the truck arriving.

During a recent visit to NYC, we passed by one after another of types of people needing assistance; some homeless, some were able bodied individual’s just experiencing life’s nuanced challenges. By days end, I was an exhausted drained mess, having depleted my reserves and brain power in trying to ensure I helped each and every person in some small way possible. Hubby was surprised that the number of people I counted needing help even existed. He did hold the door for a gentleman who asked nicely. And he was grateful to do so. Raising our kids, Hubby was so very generous when a child overcame a struggle or performed an action that made hubby feel proud, inspired, or just dog gone emotional about his kid. But he allowed the struggle to occur, whereas I had blisters from gripping the broom I used to sweep the path of struggle for each one of my three children.

Rewarders often appreciate the self-reliance necessary to be built in order for gratitude to kick in, in order for the reward of giving to have a lasting impact. Often rewarders want the individual in need to acknowledge their need for a deeper meaning, a learning that occurs in building character and in forming a bond between helper and the one being helped. Additionally, some rewarders don’t always see the obvious and might not be inclined to fore think the needs that others might have, but that does not make them any less of a giver. Rewarders give based on need AND actions, whereas servers give based on needs alone. Servers are driven innately by their own desire to serve and feel good about serving. Rewarders are driven by the need that exists and the call to action from the one needing help.

Your DONORS are Servers and Rewarders as well. Which is why it is so very important to have a continual stream of consciousness flowing by them of not only your constituents’ needs, but ALSO your constituents and organizations’ actions and your call to help. I recently facilitated a strategic planning session where the ED implied that more publicity would raise more funds. Her rationale was that when people see what we are doing and the people we serve, they will say, “Hey that’s a good cause, I’ll send them money”. She wasn’t wrong. But she wasn’t totally right either. She only had half the equation; she was speaking to the Server givers in her donor pool, who would see the article and intuit the need and be moved to action, their own defined action, based on what they read that caused them to emote.

The other half is that a rewarder would read the news article, close the paper and walk away. They would certainly appreciate the work that was being performed, but would not be moved to action because there was no call to action; there was no request for help nor any evidence of the organization doing something that a rewarder could well, reward with their assistance. To complete the cycle and speak to both groups of givers – servers and rewarders – the organization would also have to show action, maybe a piece on the results of their activity or a testimonial from a constituent served on what they did because of this group, as well as a request spelled out –“We Need Your help Now. Please send us $25 today to take this work to the next level”.

Servers and Rewarders are both equally giving, they are just compelled to act based on different criteria.Recognizing this, preparing for it, and employing different techniques in communication and solicitation will help you meet both of their needs.

Wise Warren.

“When I buy businesses, it’s the same as investing in philanthropy. I’m looking for somebody who will get the job done and is in synch with my goals. You can have the greatest goals in the world, but if you have the wrong people running it, it isn’t going to work. On the other hand, if you’ve got the right person running it, almost anything is possible.”

– Warren Buffett

Patience and Trust

BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY

Twenty-two of the dogs most in need of care after being rescued from Michael Vick’s horrifying dogfighting ring were sent to Best Friends Animal Society for rehabilitation. Each of those dogs was special, but from the start there was a standout: Lance. The best dog trainers in the world worked with the 22 dogs, and over time, each passed the court-ordered Canine Good Citizen test and was placed in a loving home. Except for Lance. Even though a wonderful family was interested in adopting him, he was not allowed to leave until he passed his test, and he had so much anxiety that every time he took the test, he would freeze….

Best Friends Animal Society 

Register Now for Harvest’s latest Webinar “Women Lean In, On and Out” June 24, 2014

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Women Lean In, On and Out

Harvest Development Group’s Director of Client Engagement, Jeanne Boyer Roy, back from Indiana University’s School of Philanthropy Symposium this Spring, shares her thoughts on this extraordinary symposium. Join us for the second in Harvest’s Women Leading Philanthropy webinar series —  Women Lean In, On and Out.  This thought provoking presentation will bring to life the serious issues facing women leaders today. Learn why it is up to the women who are there at the governance table in corporations to Lean ON and OUT to their male colleagues in order to change the board slate and ultimately the board room. We hope you will join us for this insightful webinar.

Date: Thursday, June 24th
Time: 12:30pm EST
Link:   https://harvestdevgrp.clickwebinar.com/Women_in_Philanthropy__Lean_in__Lean_out__or_Lean_on_/register

Lessons From My 93-Year-Old Kindergarten Teacher

Mary Beth Washington is the stuff that kindergarten dreams are made of. “She did almost everything contrary to the rules: she took the kids out walking in the rain, she napped with them during naptime, she came to school dressed like a circus performer. She was in love with birds, dancing, poetry and people.” Now in her 93rd year, she is as spirited as ever and still going strong with her walking stick, cheery stockings and shoes, and many layers of scarves. “I teach the big children, now,” she says, in a chance encounter with a parent whose child was one of her students. With hearty chuckles and magical winks, there are many lessons to be learned from this special woman. (10901 reads) 

Lessons From My 93-Year-Old Kindergarten Teacher