Understanding donors

As if you couldn’t tell, I am a very big fan of Penelope Burk — the unquestionable queen of the “Donor-Centered Universe”. So, when I get the opportunity to talk directly to a donor about their philanthropy — like I did last week — I get really excited.

Last week, I was engaged in a two-day annual fund evaluation and part of the methodology for this process included talking directly to donors and lapsed donors.

In one of my interviews, a donor started talking about the different charities that he and his wife support. In that discussion, he drew a distinction between supporting non-profit organizations who provide comfort and mercy and those whose mission represents an investment in the future for the community. For this particular donor, he said he more deeply values his contributions that are “investments in the future” even though his faith also calls him to donate to those who provide comfort and mercy.

I know this shouldn’t have been a revelation for someone (aka me) who prides himself on being a resource development geek. But I walked away from the interview feeling a little wiser. And after thinking about it for a moment, I started wondering if the organization I was working for knew this about their donor? And if they did, then how many other donors do they know that well?

It strikes me that being “donor-centered” isn’t just about the mechanics of Moves Management and making the donor feel like there is a relationship. Being donor-centered is about developing relationships that are as REAL as the ones you have with friends and family.

Donor surveys, interviews, focus groups and face-to-face stewardship visits are all tools in our resource development toolkit that can help deepen donor relationships and become donor-centered.  One of the resources I used to develop my interview questions was found online at Tony Poderis’ website.  I suggest you check it out too and consider using it to engage your donors (at the very least do something to deepen the relationship with your organization’s Top 50 lifetime donors).

What other relationship building activities do you use that makes you a “friend to many”??? Please share.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

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