visionFor years Richard and I have been saying that a non-profit should consider half of their mission to be about donors. In other words, your mission should be just as much about your donors as the work you’re doing every day to make a difference in the world.
That’s a pretty radical statement. But it’s a philosophy that we believe truly reflects what a non-profit’s work should be about.
Unfortunately, even non-profits who consider themselves “donor-centered” have not embraced this philosophy, especially when it comes to long-term planning and visioning.
Too often, when non-profits think about “where they want to be in five or ten years,” they only think in terms of the organization. “In 5 years, we can eradicate homelessness in our city.” Or “In 10 years we want to ensure 200 million acres of land are protected.”
Those are great visions. I’m not knocking a big vision; in fact, we applaud non-profits that like to think big and be bold. But it’s almost always about them, the organization. We’re asking…
“What about the donor?”
We’re so focused as fundraisers to think about only what we have to do in the next 12 months. Yes, we have to create yearly revenue goals and strategic plans for our donors, but how often are you thinking about how you want to grow a relationship with a donor to take them from $10,000 a year to $50,000 a year over the next 5 years? What would it take to build and nurture a relationship with that donor to make that a reality?
We believe that this is the kind of visioning you should be doing with the donors in your portfolio.
When we do an assessment of a prospective client’s donor file, if the file is large enough, we create a five-year revenue forecast. The way a major gift program really grows is by increasing the average revenue per donor in an MGO’s portfolio.
How do you increase the revenue per donor of each donor in your portfolio? By having a vision for each donor. That vision is predicated on building trust, understanding their passions and interests, building desire around your organization’s mission, and presenting them with inspiring offers around specific programs and projects they will invest in – and then reporting back the impact of that investment.
When was the last time you looked at your portfolio and, donor by donor, you created a long- term vision of where you would like that relationship, their engagement and their revenue to be in five years?
If you were truly “donor-centered” – if you saw your donors as your mission as much as what your organization does every day – you’d be casting this kind of vision for each of your donors.
What if you were to say to a donor, “Margaret, you’ve been a generous donor who has been giving around $10,000 a year. I would love for you to be investing $100,000 a year with us in five years. We aren’t there yet as an organization to deserve that, but over time, our organization is going to show you why we’re worthy of that type of gift from you.”
Wow! What a statement. What a vision! And, what a commitment to your donor to show her that you’ll be working hard getting to know her, investing in that relationship, gaining her trust, serving her outrageously and showing her how she’s making an impact on the world.
Perhaps you don’t have to say that to every donor, but what if you believed it and had that kind of vision for all the donors in your portfolio? How would that affect what you’re doing this year, this month and this week? It would change how you think about your donors. I know it would.
Creating a vision isn’t just about your organization’s plans for the future, it’s also as much about your donors. Don’t forget that. This is what being “donor-centered” is truly about. (Tweet it!)