I was checking out Facebook the other day and I saw an article that popped out at me. Perhaps you saw it: “The One Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life.” Obviously, that caught my attention. Melanie Curtin based this piece on a Harvard University study that for 75 years tracked the physical and emotional well-being of over 700 people.
It was fascinating. Turns out that the one thing that leads to a fulfilled life is having quality relationships with others. It’s not about how many relationships, or if they are romantic… it’s about how real those relationships are.
Of course that got me thinking about you and major gifts. At Veritus we continuously hammer home to you that this major gifts work is all about creating authentic and meaningful relationships with donors.
We believe that if you do that right, the money will follow.
Yet in most major gift programs we encounter, MGOs are NOT evaluated on anything having to do with creating relationships. Besides revenue, most major gift programs are evaluated on metrics of certain tactics (phone calls, visits, emails and personal notes), with little or no emphasis on moving the relationship forward and deeper.
What happens then is that you are incentivized to check off a list of tactics, rather than being rewarded for spending quality time creating meaningful connections.
This is why Richard, our Veritus team and I stress more than anything that you have to make meaningful connections with donors, NOT making a certain number of phone calls, visits, personal notes or e-mails each month. Those are all important, but only in the context of a real connection with a donor.
Face-to-face encounters, emails and phone calls don’t necessarily move the relationship forward IF they are not done purposefully and with care. To understand what “a meaningful connection” is, consider this before your next engagement with a donor:
- Do I know where the relationship is going with this donor? In other words, is your long-range plan for your donor driven by her passions and interests? How will the contact you are going to make lead her down that path?
- Will this particular touch help to move the donor toward inspiring him to make a gift? Will you either help the donor feel good about a current gift with a thank you or impact report, help him understand a need, or help him deepen his relationship to your mission? Is this all leading to a future solicitation?
- Is this touch point helping the donor deepen her understanding of the mission of the organization? Does it create value for the donor? Does it give her new information? Does it break her heart or inspire her?
If you can answer YES to all three of these points, then your connection will be meaningful, and it will deepen the relationship of your donors to your organization. You’ll be on the path to developing a real, lasting partnership.
This is what it all about. You get this right, and the revenue will follow.
I found this refreshing. Especially since I’m told to fill all the squares in my planning grid. To me, that just doesn’t make sense when I still don’t know these donors. So, I focus my efforts on building the relationship–figuring out the donor’s connection to the organization and building trust. I think in even the best development programs we count and check off accomplishments, but the overriding principle must be to build long-term relationships.
Thanks for the inspiration.