Building trust in any relationship is essential if that relationship is going to be real and authentic. As a major gift fundraiser, creating mutual trust with your major donors is really your ultimate goal.
Why? Because if you have mutual trust, then you and your donor will feel comfortable to be real with one another. That leads to place where you can serve your donor by presenting opportunities for that donor to invest in, bringing them joy. And it allows the donor to say yes or no without fear.
That is a place of freedom for both you and the donor.
However, getting to that place in a donor relationship (or in any relationship) takes work. I struggle with it all the time. Being real with someone means you have to give up something of yourself. It means being vulnerable and allowing someone to see you… I mean really see you.
I think about my relationship with Richard. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’ve been business partners for almost nine years. Every year that relationship strengthens because both of us continue to be vulnerable with one another. We allow each other to see the “dark places” of who we are.
But in doing so over the years, even though we may have some strong disagreements or we disappoint each other, because we have an unshakable trust, we know we’ll be okay with our friendship and our business relationship. That continues to allow us to “go deeper,” and it creates freedom without fear.
Now, you will most likely not have that type of relationship with a donor. Yet, you do need to have mutual trust if that relationship is to be authentic. So I have two questions for you: Can you be vulnerable enough with a donor to allow him to open up and be real with you? And will your organization be vulnerable with your donor, to show a donor all that it is?
This is important because, to invite a donor into a relationship with you and your organization’s mission, you have to allow yourself and the organization to be vulnerable with that donor. That allows the donor to be real with you.
If you have a donor who can be real with you, even if she rejects an offer you present to support a specific project or program, she won’t reject the mission of your organization. And she will tell you what she really wants to do to support your mission.
I’ve seen major gift fundraisers and organizations that are vulnerable with their donors. They allow donors to know they are not perfect, that they have flaws. They invite donors to see those flaws and to seek guidance in helping them fix it. This relationship allows organizations to show donors that they don’t have everything figured out and that they need others – they need donors to help them make a greater impact in the world.
Being vulnerable is counter-intuitive, both as humans and as institutions. But Richard and I have experienced that successful organizations don’t pretend to have all the answers, and they are able to show their flaws and open themselves up to donors – which actually draws those donors closer to them.
This leads to a new kind of freedom in a relationship with a donor, one that has longevity and purpose. Ultimately, when you and your organization have this type of relationship – built over time with trust and respect – it leads to an abundance of joy for all involved.
I think we all want that.