Poor communication.Yes, that title was meant to be provocative, but it was also meant to get you thinking. How does your donor like to be communicated with? Not how do YOU or your organization like to communicate – but how does your donor want to be communicated with, that best suits them?
Knowing how your donor wants to be communicated with will unlock a new world for building a relationship with her.
In a recent SmartBrief article, author Diana Peterson-More says “most of us practice the ‘golden rule’ of communication, meaning we communicate with others the way we want to be communicated with. If we practice the ‘platinum rule’ of communication – communicating with others the way they want to be communicated with – our chances of success increase exponentially.”
Then she goes on to offer the tips below to help you understand how to figure out a person’s [a donor’s] communication style.
Tips to figure it out:

  1. Ask – [donors] will tell you their preferred styles of communicating
  2. Observe – “try different styles with [donors] and see what nets the best results”
  3. Confirm – try a method, say giving an answer verbally, and then follow up with, “Joanna, I want to make sure you understood, can I email you as well?”
  4. Accept responsibility – If Johnna forgot a point in your answer come back with, “Oops, I goofed,” and then tell her the point again.

Richard and I talk a lot about making sure you have a strategic plan for each of your donors. With our clients, we use a tool called the Marketing Impact Chart (or MIC) to help a major gift fundraiser create those plans. One crucial aspect of that plan is knowing and understanding your donor’s communication preference.
If you use Diana’s tips above, you should be able to uncover it through your qualifying process with your portfolio.
Yet what is still very frustrating for major gift fundraisers is that they’re pressured not to communicate via the donor’s preferred method, but instead with the organization’s.
Here’s how that plays out. One area where we see a disregard toward a donor’s communication preference is how non-profits use metrics to evaluate major gift fundraisers. Almost every non-profit will have some metric that you have to meet X number of times per month face-to-face with a donor. In many cases it’s between 15 and 25 a month.
What if a donor doesn’t like to meet face-to-face? What if they prefer to talk over the phone or through email? Shouldn’t you honor the donor’s wishes? Of course!
Yet we’re so focused on OUR way of communicating that we forget that the real value for the organization and for the donor is in creating a meaningful connection. One that honors the donor and moves the relationship to a deeper place. (Tweet it!)
That meaningful connection can only truly be done if it’s in line with the way the donor wants to be communicated with.
There are too many major gift fundraisers running around out there trying to meet a metric that’s organizationally centered and not donor-centered.
If you’re donor-centered, you would see much more success in deepening a relationship with a donor and ultimately realizing larger gifts, if you moved from the “golden rule” to the “platinum rule” of communication.
It’s not about you – it’s about your donor.