Stop this… and watch your fundraising soar

forefront of a stop sign with a clear blue sky

PLEASE stop treating your donors – the people that are critical to the survival of your organization –  like “donors.”

The word donor, particularly for those that want nothing to do with fundraising, reduces a person to someone who gives you money. Period.

It’s not uncommon for board members and executive directors alike to dread fundraising. Many refuse to get involved or do so only because they have to.

Unfortunately, that negative attitude seeps out.

Hang in there with me, easy actionables on the way.

The big idea is that a simple shift in mindset is the first step to innovation and social impact.

When you see your donors as real people with hearts, minds, and aspirations; when you consider them partners, equals, friends, and investors, and treat them that way, the sky is the limit.

How do you do this? An easy first step is to let them know you hold them in high esteem in all of your communications: your thank you letters, emails, and newsletters.

And always remember, all the things you achieve 
or accomplish, you can because of your donors.

Simone Joyaux, a mentor of mine and one of the sector’s most thoughtful, inspirational, and provocative leaders, says it well:

Our job, as fundraisers is to give and provide more reasons/inspiration for the donor to love, feel committed to, and realign themselves and their values with your cause. 

Their cause.”


Donor-centricity is a real thing (despite its jargony name) and it’s been well researched and taught in the most sophisticated fundraising conferences in modern fundraising.

Fundraising professionals know that becoming a donor-centric organization is a proven model that works.

If you didn’t do as well with your most recent appeal as you would have liked, perhaps it’s time to look at the degree to which your fundraising efforts have been donor-centric.

The fundamental step in adopting a donor-centric approach is to first and foremost adopt an attitude of gratitude. This means feeling and expressing gratitude for every gift that walks in our door, even if it’s $10.00.

What does it mean to be donor-centric?

More from Simone.

“Donor-centric” is another way of saying “building trust.” A donor’s relationship with your organization deepens or frays most based on how much trust you can create in three areas:

  • trust that donors play an essential, vital, central role in your mission’s success;
  • trust that your organization does worthwhile things with donor gifts;
  • trust that your organization conducts its operations efficiently and effectively.”

Sadly, too many organizations focus on their own needs and why their good work requires donations.

The donor gets lost.

It means that you really really really care what your donors think, know, do, experience and feel.

It means that you treat them as people with feelings and values (rather than as numbers). Interact with them. Ask their opinions. Enjoy their company. Reap the rewards.

It’s time to come up with new strategies to treat your donors like the intelligent, critical, and passionate people they are. Check out this hot tip you can do this week.

The Next Big Thing: Donor-Centricity on steroids

I lifted this crazy story written by my donor communications go to guy Tom Ahern from a recent Bloomerang blogpost. (worth subscribing.)

In 2012, psychologist Jen Shang teamed with a direct mail copywriter to create test appeals for PBS TV in America.

And this particular copywriter (I know him well) preferred to write love letters to donors and prospects.

Dr. Shang, an international expert in philanthropic behavior, deeply approved. But sometimes his writing fell transparently short.

Whenever the love that seeped from his pen dried up, Jen would wag her finger: “You’re not loverizing enough.”

i.e., rewrite.

And so an exquisite, evocative, profound, moving, and descriptive term was born. LOVERIZING.

LOVERAGE more charity from the same base.


Can we issue you a LICENSE to LOVERIZE?

Oooooooooooh. That’s good, Jen.

Thanks Tom. I now know loverizing is a real thing.



LOVERIZING: the movement

Here’s the latest and the greatest new thinking in donorcentricity and loverizing:

The awesome John Lepp of Agents of Good, one of the hot shot donor-love guys re-visits the traditional donor pyramid  –  you know, the one with the small money on the bottom and the major gifts on top.

The latest thinking is that it doesn’t work anymore.

It forces organizations to focus on one thing. Money.

‘You give us one, tiny, crappy gift a year? To the bottom you go!’

“I’ve talked to nonprofit leaders who only give a crap about the people in the top 1/3 of the pyramid.

They all focus on one thing – how much money will this donor give us… and that establishes the value that donor has to the organization.”

Focusing on a love pyramid forces you to acknowledge and embrace ALL gifts and to do your part to allow your donors to love you back with all of their hearts (and wallets).

The “new” donor pyramid focuses only on the love a donor gives. (Which is largely mirrored by the love that you show them…)

And that is the key. Trusting that the money follows the love.

Here are a few of my love stories to organizations that I support.

  • Thinking about those suffering with Ebola in West Africa is incredibly painful. Partners in Health brings me hope. I love them and value being a part of the solution.
  • Attending your first day of school hungry is unimaginable for me. It’s simply wrong. I love the nonprofit that tutors, mentors and loves these children. I do too.

What’s your love story?

What we know for sure…

The most effective fundraising is going to mean changing our attitude about the role of our donors in our organizations.

We can do this by giving value to personal connectivity, intuition, insight and emotional intelligence.

The Love Story Grid, by John Lepp


Using this as your guide, you can come up with your own ways to better connect with your donors.

Reach out and let them know what’s going on. Even the problems you’re facing. Invite them to participate by making a gift.

It’s something they can do to help solve a problem that they care about.

The fact is, you can do the work that they don’t have the time or expertise to do themselves. They can partner with you by providing the resources. You’re in it together. It’s a win-win. 

Let them know that you care and that they matter. The minute you “get it” it’ll come naturally, and you’ll find that it’s fun. 

Some take-away action steps

  • Re-write your thank you letter immediately. Make it more personal. Check out these examples. Then take that same letter and customize the opening paragraph for a small segment of long time donors or new donors. Show them that you made a special effort for them using some of the principles of the donor-centered approach.
  • Make sure the ED or a board member writes a handwritten note on the thank you letter.
  • Absolutely, positively, if you do nothing else, have a board member call and thank donors within 48 hours of getting their gift. You are 39% more more likely to get a second gift if you do this, and it’s a great way to get board members involved with fundraising.
  • Create a welcome package for new donors. On average, 70% of first time donors no NOT make a second gift. Stop that now and watch your results go up. It doesn’t need to be a big deal: a newsletter, a few photos, a handwritten note. Anything special that shouts out your mission.
  • Come up with a “surprise and delight” story. Something that would make a donor say OMG! I had no idea. Then send it out in a quick spontaneous email, or pop it in your welcome package, or make it a feature on your next e-news.

I hope this gives you some ideas for how to take the next step to increasing your fundraising results in 2015. However small, take just one step, then repeat.

Let me know in the comments what has worked for you. Or what are you committed to trying.

And…share this post with your colleagues and start a LOVERLUTION!

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