“I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy!”
Business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
– Written my Dr. Seuss in The Lorax
There are so many things that I find amazing about Dr. Seuss, and one of those things is that he packs so much into so few words. In the post I wrote last Thursday, I used Seuss’s words from “The Lorax” to address the idea of growth in the non-profit sector and the need for planning. Today, let’s take the same quote and look at your agency’s donors.
“You never can tell what some people will buy!“
While this quote is obviously focused on the for-profit sector and consumers, I think the same can be said for donors to non-profit organizations.
In a recent battery of donor interviews, I found people all over the map with their motivations. Here are just a few of the things I heard them say:
- “I like this organization’s mission and the programs they offer their clients.“
- “This agency gets results.”
- “They know how to stretch my contribution.”
- “I really like the executive director.”
- “Someone on the board is a good friend of mine.”
- “I am an alumnus and that organization made a difference in my life.”
In reality, there are probably countless reasons why people give to your non-profit organization, and it is easy to take the position that it doesn’t matter as long as they keep giving.
But I believe that taking this position is a mistake.
If you want donors to go from making their first gift to their second, then you need to give them what they want. AND . . . if you don’t know why they gave to you in the first place, then it is hard to give them what they want.
Stewardship activities run the spectrum and some of them get you no closer to understanding your donors such as:
- gift acknowledgement letters
- annual report
- gift acceptance policies
- handwritten letters
Other stewardship activities definitely get you a little closer to building that relationship and understanding your donors’ rationale for making a charitable contribution:
- tours of facility
- follow-up thank you phone calls
- annual sit down visits
- focus groups
- stewardship receptions and events
Seuss is right . . . you never can tell what motivates people. So, let’s stop guessing.
I understand that these types of activities are time consuming, which is a commodity many non-profit organizations lack.
So, what is the answer?
Segment your database and target donors for cultivation / stewardship activities. If you are a small agency with very little capacity, this activity might result in targeting less than five donors.
Don’t do this organically. Put together a plan for each donor. It doesn’t have to be a big plan, but put some thought into it. There are lots of samples out there on the internet. One set of templates I found that I liked is provided by Gary Hubbell Consulting.
In addition to templates, there are a ton of white papers available online. The following is just a few that I like:
- GuideStar: “Understanding the Motivations of Major Donors, Part I: The Most Important Things to Know“
- GuideStar: “Understanding the Motivations of Major Donors, Part II: Know Thy Donors“
- Ashok Mahapatra SlideShare presentation: “Understanding your donors to keep them for life“
- AFP: “Donor Relations: Understanding the Donor Experience“
What is your agency doing to engage donors, deepen relationships, and most importantly, understand their motivation for giving? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other. Or perhaps you want to answer the more appropriate Seuss-related questions:
- Would you like them in a house?
- Would you like them with a mouse?
- Would you eat them in a box?
- Would you eat them with a fox?
Come on, friends! Let’s have some fun this morning!!! What are you doing with regard to donor stewardship? Where are you doing it? What have been your results?
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC