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Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Haven’t you had that experience? Do you remember a beloved coach, teacher or mentor? Maybe you don’t remember the exact phrasing of the wise words they bestowed on you in your younger days but you certainly haven’t forgotten how he or she made you feel.

Relationship fundraising hinges on one critical component: how we as fundraisers make donors feel. This is what stage three of the donor journey is all about. (For a refresher on the beginning of the donor journey see last week’s post!)

Whether donors choose to build a relationship or not with a charity, at this stage, is crucially determined by how rewarded the donors feel. The focus of the relationship shifts from the relationship target (be it the beneficiary, the organization, the cause, the mission) to the donors. What drives donor satisfaction now isn’t what you do for the beneficiaries, it’s how you fulfill your donor’s needs.

So how is this accomplished?

1. Create a sense of longing.
As part of creating the absolute best first giving experience you want to leave your donors longing for more contact with you. The ideal experience after a donor makes a 1st gift is to enjoy the warm feeling of longing for more contact.

2. Pursue intimacy.
Self-disclosure of private thoughts and feelings is the foundation of an intimate relationship. Revealing oneself and seeking validation is reciprocal. Ensure donors are heard, understood, and that their feelings are cared for. Use personalized two- way communication and great discovery questions. Show healthy restraint; you don’t propose on the first date.

3. Invite them to reflect on how they might support the organization in the future. Encouraging donors to reflect on how much they would like to contribute to the charity in the future (planned future investment) and how much making a potential impact with their gifts mean to them (emotional investment), can significantly increase their commitment.

4. Stretch donors’ imagination about just how good a human being they can be.
Rather than merely reflecting who a donor is in our communications we should be reflecting equally on who that donor could be, stretching their sense of who they might need to be to live a fulfilled life. If charities constantly inspire their donors to become the very best they can the charity can become the donor’s best source for living a more fulfilled life.

5. De-emphasize the organization as the middle man. Thank donors in a way that celebrates your shared success and connects them with the beneficiary. For example, “You made Christian Aid stronger today, watch the video and feel the power of your gift.”

Donors have to feel inspired, empowered and connected to the cause. It may feel counter intuitive to downplay the organization but that may be exactly what you need to do to make the donor feel more connected to the cause she is so passionate about. Keep the donor’s needs top of mind and the fruits of relationship fundraising will come.

To learn more about the donor journey and get quick tips for implementing these strategies, download the Relationship Fundraising Pocket Guide.

Have you seen great examples of a “thank you” that connects the beneficiary deeply with donors?