Get rid of the word annualIt’s an old way of thinking.
It’s an old paradigm.
It’s out of date.
It’s strategically wrong. Flawed.
It should not have any place in your brain or in your dealings with donors.
I’m talking about the word “annual.” It’s time to get rid of this word and the thinking behind it. It has no place in your lexicon, your thinking, your planning, or your dealing with donors.
Yet so many people still use it. Consultants, writers, thought leaders, managers and leaders.
I just read a blog post where the author talks about “annual fundraising” and “the annual campaign” and “annual giving.” Think about this. What does this language mean? All it means is that the person who wrote that blog is using “insider” language to describe an “inside” function of a non-profit.
This is an accounting function and/or a timeline for a goal. It answers the question “what is your revenue goal for this year – what will you accomplish in the 12-month financial period?” It could also answer the question: “what is the revenue goal for this donor?”
This thinking is purely an organizational value. It’s about us and what’s important to us. It tells us “insiders” what we can expect to GET from the revenue source(s) – hence the focus on the financial period which we all call “annual.”
One thing is for sure – none of this is truly about the donor and her journey and values.
Now, to be clear, this inside function is necessary. Every non-profit needs to know what their annual goals are. Every non-profit needs to have an annual budget. And part of that budget process is identifying sources of revenue, including what an individual donor is forecast to give.
And someone inside the organization needs to manage all of this, which is why they need to know those annual targets. Then the fundraisers need to be sure to reach their annual goals – and they won’t reach those goals without individual annual donor goals and individual donor plans to reach them. I get that. But making the leap from this necessary financial function to putting it on a donor is a pretty big leap.
Here’s what I mean.
A healthy donor relationship (emphasis on the word healthy) is one where you (the organization) and the donor are collaborating together to get something good done for the planet. (Tweet it!) This is not a time-limited relationship or activity. It’s an open, time-limitless relationship and activity.
You want to be in a relationship with your donor where you’re working together to solve a specific problem or take advantage of a specific opportunity. Your work has certain impact milestones along the way, so that the donor knows that her giving is making a difference.
But the problem or opportunity doesn’t go away. If it does, you need to shut down your non-profit. So there’s always more to do, and that’s the important dynamic of the relationship with your donor.
The work is not done just because we’ve now reached the end of a financial period. No, it continues. And when the donor’s giving has helped you reach a program milestone, you report back on all the good that’s been done – and then you turn their gaze to the next phase or the next situation.
That is how a healthy donor relationship works. Here’s another way to look at it:
annual and open chart
You can see the tremendous difference between these two approaches. The annual approach is about the organization and its values. The open approach is about the donor and getting good done. Believe me, the open approach increases donor retention, frequency of giving and upgrading of donor giving.
Why? Because it focuses the donor on what they love the most – the good that will happen as a result of their giving. That is satisfying, soul-filling, vison-engaging… and a very happy place for any donor.
The annual approach is that annoying, pesky, money-focused “that time of year” approach that turns a donor’s gaze to the hand that is in their pocket. That’s a nasty, negative feeling – which is why so many donors run away from those relationships.
Do your best to reserve the word “annual” for when you’re talking to your insider group about budgets and donor/organization goals.
But work NOT to use the word with donors – not only when you talk to them, but also when you think about them. Your heart and your spirit should be about partnership, collaboration, impact and doing good. That will keep your donor happy and fulfilled. And because of that, you’ll see great things happen.