The Heart of a Donor
I am writing this post from the Annual McCabe Family Beach Vacation. Right now at 8:06 AM there are 5 kids 6 or under devouring a breakfast of strawberries, bacon, and cinnamon toast and 8 adults sipping coffee and nibbling on the forgotten crusts of the cinnamon toast.
My parents (Nana and Granddad to the kids) lead a daily lesson followed by a scavenger hunt for the kids each morning. This morning they reviewed their Bible verse for the week: “The Lord does not look at the things Man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” – 1 Samuel 16:7.
If you think about it, every good relationship works that way. When you meet a new person and are just starting a relationship your conversation and perceptions of each other tend to be shallow and focused on the “outward appearance” like where you live, what your job is, and who you know in common. But as you build a relationship and begin to add depth in your understanding and care for each other you begin to “look at the heart” and care less about the clothes someone wears and the titles they hold and more about who they are inside, what the believe, and what their values are.
It’s the same in a relationship between an organization and donors. It’s easy to think that just because you are sending out direct mail letters and emails and receiving a response or even a donation, that you have a relationship. But, in order to have real depth in a relationship between an organization and donors you have to know more about them than their current contact information and last gift amount.
A relationship involves understanding each other and then appropriately communicating based on that understanding. An organization has to have good historical data that gives a clear picture of who the donor is, what specific interests they have, and at what level they want to engage with the organization.
Just as important as “looking at the heart” of a donor to understand them and communicate appropriately with them, is creating depth in a relationship by showing the heart of the organization through the content of the relationship-building communications. Which means not simply expressing a need and asking for money – but sharing meaningful stories of what God is doing through an organization and providing help and resources that are beneficial and relevant to the donor.
While we often view fundraising and donor communications as a means to an end of funding the good work of an organization, the reality is that the giving relationship between a donor and an organization is just as important for the donor as it is for the organization. I’ll talk about that concept later this week.