The main reason individual donors reduce or stop their giving is because they do not know their gift is making a difference. (Tweet it!)
It’s that basic.
Don’t tell the donor that their gift accomplished what you promised it would (and what they agreed to), and they will go away. I honestly don’t know why so many people in the non-profit sector do not understand this.
Every week, Jeff and I hear stories like these:
- A fundraising manager who cannot get the program people to feel any urgency about reporting on program outcomes.
- Program people who don’t design outcome measurement and reporting into their programs.
- An authority figure (CEO, Executive Director, etc.) who says: “Look, outcomes are really not that important. All the donor wants to know is that we are doing good work.”
These organizations continue to lose revenue from current donors as long as this kind of thinking goes on. It is truly amazing to watch. And it is so difficult to understand why all of these folks don’t fix the problem – it seems so obvious.
But here is another twist to this whole story.
For some reason, corporations, businesses and foundations are regarded as these cold institutions that operate differently than individuals do. Many fundraisers and authority figures believe these institutions have no heart, no soul, no feelings, no aspirations or passions and interests – none of that stuff that we all work so hard to service on the individual side.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
Every institution that gives money to your organization has a personality and a set of passions and interests that need to be fulfilled, just like an individual donor does.
A corporation or business usually has a formal Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) statement that drives its giving. And if it’s not formally written up, it’s informally kept and managed by an owner, the CEO or a group of executives. Believe me, it is there – a definite preference on what that corporation or business wants to accomplish through their giving and their volunteer involvement.
It’s the same with a foundation. Large or small, a foundation has its written/formal grant giving guidelines (read interests and passions) or informal “this is what we give to” rules and protocols. There are definite preferences that are guided by one person or a group.
Even a place of worship (of any faith) or a social club has a set of passions and interests.
Here’s the thing.
A group of individuals, organized as a business, a political or religious or social entity, has a personality, a set of preferences, passions and interests. They just do.
And your job is to (a) know what they are, (b) match them to the need that your organization serves, and (c) serve and service them outrageously.
If you don’t tell those institutions that their gift made a difference – that what they gave you did exactly what you promised it would as it fulfills their interests, passions and preferences –then you have failed to tell them that their giving made a difference, and they will stop funding you.
It is that simple.
Now, the fact is that most granting or gift-giving institutions do require some kind of evaluation or feedback. But if you do just the minimum required, it may not be enough to keep them engaged. Make sure you go above and beyond the required reporting by telling stories, showing videos, giving them first-hand testimonials of people helped or a place changed, and inviting the corporate or foundation folks right to the scene to experience it themselves.
There is something electric that happens when you engage these grant-givers at a deeply personal level.
One last thing.
Institutions have a heart. It doesn’t seem like it, I know. Giant buildings. Bureaucracy. Tons of people and systems. Where’s the heart? It’s there. Underneath all the structure, organization, rules and regulations, protocols, systems and power there is a heart – a warm, beating heart.
It is found in each of the human beings that make up the gift-giving decision-making process. You may not see it when you meet with them. But don’t let that get you off track and cause you not to include heart messaging in your presentation. Keep it in there. In fact, add more, to balance out all the facts, figures and stats you have included.
Let them see that their giving is changing the planet and its people. Their hearts will be warmed. And your words and pictures will help their minds to process what you are saying.
Remember, institutions are people first. And that is who you are talking to.