Not all donors are seeking a deeper connection

What if your donors care just enough to give, but that’s all?

What if all our attempts to give them more of our nonprofit wonderfulness are just annoying?

That’s the question over at Donor-Central, at Are We Completely Wrong?

All the talk in fundraising right now is for nonprofits to move towards establishing a deeper, more intimate relationship with their donors…. What if your donors want less of a relationship with you? What if they really want to be merely transactional?

It’s a scary thought. But realistic.

I’ve seen several tests where additional non-fundraising contact with donors had no impact or even resulted in lower giving and/or worse donor retention.

We should be prepared to admit that not all donors are as absorbed in our causes as we are. Some of them — maybe most of them — just want to give and be done with it.

You do have super-donors who want lots of connection and information. And they’ll reward you for giving it to them.

But not all donors.

For many (most?), your job isn’t more relationship — it’s handling a small, low-connection relationship right. Enough (but not too much) contact. Clear and compelling offers. A moderate amount of thankfulness and reporting back. And that’s about all.

More is not always better.


Comments

12 responses to “Not all donors are seeking a deeper connection”

  1. Katie Graf Avatar
    Katie Graf

    Thank you for saying this – being truly donor-centered means acknowledging that there are donors like this as well as super-donors. Great post.

  2. Katie Graf Avatar
    Katie Graf

    Thank you for saying this – being truly donor-centered means acknowledging that there are donors like this as well as super-donors. Great post.

  3. Jeff, I couldn’t agree with you more. In our work with even Major Donors (donors who give at least $1,000+ per year, could be more) we find that only about 1/3 of donors who give significantly want a more personal, intimate relationship with the organization they invest in. Being donor-centered is about honoring the donor, even when they don’t want to talk to you. So, leave these folks alone. It’s what they want. How do we know that only 1/3 want a deeper relationship? Because we ask the donor. Amazing what you find out when you do that simple thing of asking. We’ve seen so many major donor caseloads that have so many folks that shouldn’t be on it. It’s a total waste of time.

  4. Jeff, I couldn’t agree with you more. In our work with even Major Donors (donors who give at least $1,000+ per year, could be more) we find that only about 1/3 of donors who give significantly want a more personal, intimate relationship with the organization they invest in. Being donor-centered is about honoring the donor, even when they don’t want to talk to you. So, leave these folks alone. It’s what they want. How do we know that only 1/3 want a deeper relationship? Because we ask the donor. Amazing what you find out when you do that simple thing of asking. We’ve seen so many major donor caseloads that have so many folks that shouldn’t be on it. It’s a total waste of time.

  5. Jeff & Jeff,
    Not surprised to see your comment here, Jeff. This definitely made me think about your post last week. (Which can be found here for those who are interested: http://veritusgroup.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/are-your-donors-qualified/)
    Great minds, you two. Thanks!

  6. Jeff & Jeff,
    Not surprised to see your comment here, Jeff. This definitely made me think about your post last week. (Which can be found here for those who are interested: http://veritusgroup.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/are-your-donors-qualified/)
    Great minds, you two. Thanks!

  7. To both Jeffs, thank you for the post and comment. Our objective should NOT be to establish a more intimate relationship with all of our donors. Instead, our objective should be to establish a more meaningful relationship. And, we need to recognize, as the Jeffs have indicated, that what “meaningful” means will vary from donor to donor.

  8. To both Jeffs, thank you for the post and comment. Our objective should NOT be to establish a more intimate relationship with all of our donors. Instead, our objective should be to establish a more meaningful relationship. And, we need to recognize, as the Jeffs have indicated, that what “meaningful” means will vary from donor to donor.

  9. Melinda Avatar

    Personally, I’d agree with this concept. When I give a gift, and then get repeated mailings and asks without further interaction, it sometimes annoys me, rather than interesting me further. If I feel this way, isn’t it feasible that some others do as well? If they sent me a single thank you with an attached explanation of the value of the gift, and then left me alone for a bit, the next time I felt charitable I might remember them without the attendant annoyance that instead of gratitude my generosity will be met with pestering. Thank you for this post. Sometimes I forget to take into account how I feel when I think about fundraising to others.

  10. Melinda Avatar

    Personally, I’d agree with this concept. When I give a gift, and then get repeated mailings and asks without further interaction, it sometimes annoys me, rather than interesting me further. If I feel this way, isn’t it feasible that some others do as well? If they sent me a single thank you with an attached explanation of the value of the gift, and then left me alone for a bit, the next time I felt charitable I might remember them without the attendant annoyance that instead of gratitude my generosity will be met with pestering. Thank you for this post. Sometimes I forget to take into account how I feel when I think about fundraising to others.

  11. Actually Melinda, you should continue not taking into account how you feel. Your proposed “leave them alone for a bit” strategy would be disastrous for new donor retention. It has been every time I’ve seen it done (which is many).
    Our own sense of how things are is almost never a good guide for strategy.

  12. Actually Melinda, you should continue not taking into account how you feel. Your proposed “leave them alone for a bit” strategy would be disastrous for new donor retention. It has been every time I’ve seen it done (which is many).
    Our own sense of how things are is almost never a good guide for strategy.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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