How to conduct a tour that will win over your donors

I’ve been in the fundraising business for a long time, so I’ve been on a lot of tours of nonprofit facilities. Mainly hospitals and performing arts venues.

Some of those tours have knocked my socks off, making me thrilled to be connected to the organization I was seeing.

Others … not so much. I’ve come away tired, confused, irritable — and not very enlightened about the organization.

I’m not the real target for a tour. That would be donors. And they need to have a great experience, not the tiring and annoying one.

Here are some qualities that make the stand-out tours stand out:

  • Inspiring. This is probably the most important quality of a great tour. It’s easy to get caught up with what you’re showing — the name of this building, when it was built, what’s happening in it. What barely matters to donors. You need to show them why. That’s what makes the difference between a tour that gives them a lot of forgettable facts and one that brings your cause into the donor’s heart. Go easy on the facts. Be sure each donor knows why it matters, and why she should care.
  • Amazing. One of the best outcomes of a tour is that you give the donor a story she’ll want to tell. Give her surprising, jaw-dropping, unusual things and anecdotes.
  • Real. Don’t avoid the messy, crowded, in-need-of-repair parts of your facility. That’s part of the reality of any facility. Perfect is boring.
  • Quirky. Most facilities have quirky features, places where something odd has happened, odd spaces that once made sense but are now just odd. Funny stories. Ghosts. Those are the things that bring a tour to life.
  • Comfortable. Be mindful of your tourists. Limit the number of stairs they’ll have to climb or time they’ll spend outside in hot, cold, or wet weather. A difficult tour can sometimes be the story a donor comes away with!

A great tour is a lot like great fundraising. You don’t win people’s hearts by bragging about yourself and explaining processes. You reach them by being human and showing how their values and resources can make the world a better place.


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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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About the blogger

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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