Author’s Note: The Doobie Brothers were one of my first concerts. They played with Joe Walsh in Saratoga, New York. If you don’t know them…sorry. Google “yacht rock” then come talk to me.
Last week I was driving home from a great donor visit and the Doobies’, “What a Fool Believes” came on the radio. Aside from a solid lip syncing session, a thought struck me about my meeting that day. The donor felt a lack of communication from the organization over the years and shared that he hadn’t seen anything from his recent gift to remodel a program space. Yes, he got the obligatory form letter, “we received your gift of…,” but no picture, no thank you note, no call.
Prior to the meeting, the donor’s relationship manager told me this particular gentleman specifically said to her, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t need anything. You guys just keep doing great work with those kids. I’ll be here.”
Time-out: that’s a trap! Don’t be a fool and believe everything a donor says!
In our relationships and conversations with donors we have to be astute enough to read between the lines. I’ve heard donors say, “Please don’t spend your money on me.” “I don’t need to have coffee with you.” “Go spend your time with someone else, I’m OK.” “Your note was very thoughtful, but you don’t need to do that for me.” Or, “just doing a check-in once a year is fine with me.”
Don’t believe it, people.
As development professionals we need to be tuned in to what donors say, but we really need to pay attention to how they feel. We must shift our perspective from “what do WE need to send them?” to “how would THEY feel if we did this?”
This takes it from a sense of obligation and expectations (yes, you better have a card ready for your wedding anniversary) to a sense of thoughtful compassion and personal care.
We are in the business of shaping an experience for people who support the same cause we do. We are partners in making a difference in the world and, in many cases, making a meaningful gift to your organization might be the most fulfilling thing they ever do. How do we let them know that what they do matters despite what they might tell us they NEED? Don’t fall for it. Don’t be a fool.
Photo Credit: BBC