Recently, I attended a conference. The highlight of my experience was reconnecting with colleagues and friends. Even walking through the lobby, every other step was a chance for a hug, a handshake and a friendly smile. We shared laughs, stories and joy. I started to notice my conversations with my colleagues had changed; there was a deeper, more meaningful, feel to them. While we talked about work, the discussion also included family, personal accomplishments, goals and aspirations. The quality time I spent with my colleagues, who now felt more like friends, was priceless.
As I reflected on all the wonderful bonds and heartfelt relationships I’ve maintained over the past 22 years, there was something that stood out. It became apparent that these relationships had grown, blossomed and were stronger than ever because of trust, value and commitment. These keys to long lasting relationships are also the keys to our strongest donor and volunteer relationships.
Trust creates a safe environment to share personal and professional aspirations and seek advice. Value allows us to be highly regarded in the relationships we hold most dear. Commitment is the dedication we show to the people in our lives.
The power of building and nurturing meaningful relationships of any sort is priceless. Here’s how it plays out in a donor and volunteer relationships:
The role and importance of trust in all your engagement efforts should not be underrated or overlooked. Transparency, respect and good communication are essential. A trusting relationship promotes support of your organization’s mission. Individuals are inspired to help and to serve as advocates. Communicating and providing reports detailing how contributions have been used and the positive impact in the community is essential to building trust. With a purposeful and consistent effort to foster trust and build strong relationships, you will gain respect and your donors will trust their investment in your organization.
Everyone wants to feel as though their presence has value to those around them, be that at the workplace, in friendships or even as a donor. As simple as it may seem, a “thank you” will go a long way in nurturing a relationship. Whether donating time, money or goods our donors should know they are valued in order to maintain a long lasting relationship. Let your donors see their contributions in action. Share mission impact stories and give them opportunities to interact with program participants, staff and other beneficiaries. Donors who are happy with their experience and feel valued are more likely to have a long lasting relationship. They are also more inclined to recommend your organization to others. Appreciation leads to a more engaged and involved donor.
The word “commitment” suggests a strong sense of intention, focus and a lasting relationship with someone. Committed donors support your cause on an ongoing basis and ensure that you always have the financial capacity to achieve your goals and deliver the mission. They help the organization to thrive and benefit your members and your community. Often your committed donors will move to making a transformational gift. Larger donations have a greater impact and help serve more people for today and for generations to come.
As your relationship with your donors deepens, you will solidify these three bonds of trust, value and commitment. Nurturing and honoring your donors is, without a doubt, one of the most effective approaches to building long lasting relationships. Investing the time and energy to build and strengthen connections with your donors will pay you back many times over.
Developing meaningful relationships takes time; however, as I learned in my longest lasting relationships, the dedication is worth it. On the trip back home from my conference, I arrived at the airport to find my original flight was canceled. I had been re-directed through Phoenix with a four-hour layover. I have colleague, now a very close friend, who lives in Phoenix and we had not seen each other in 11 years. She was gracious enough to pick me up at the airport. I was elated to see her after all these years. Our time together was very special and our relationship was stronger than ever.
Do not underestimate the power of your relationships. Take time to build the trust, value and commitment that will retain your donors and volunteers.