Pay attention to your donor relationships! Care for your donors! Steward your donors!

There’s a lot of messaging out there that being donor-centered and donor-driven is the key to solid donor relationships and donor retention. 

It’s against that reality that I found this question intriguing, sent to us by a Veritus blog reader in the early days of the pandemic:

  • Much focus has been given to our donor relationships during our foray into working remotely – and rightly so. But can you speak to the importance of maintaining relationships with other internal members of our organization who are so critical in crafting our donor offers (CFO, marketing, program, etc.)? I feel like we are doing a pretty good job staying connected to our development teams (fundraisers), but perhaps not with our other vital partners. Is this the time to begin rekindling those partnerships?

Yes, this is the perfect time to connect with these very important members of your team. Here’s why, by function:

  1. CEO/Executive: These times are changing us. You need to be aware of the changes coming to your organization and how they will affect your donors. When you connect regularly with your organization’s executive leadership, either directly or through your fundraising manager, you’ll learn this kind of directional information. It is important to be an advocate for donors with your leadership team as well.
  2. CFO/Finance: This person is key to providing financial information for you about donors and projects AND creating donor offers along with your program people. We suggest you call this person up. Ask how they’re doing and what challenges they’re facing. Develop a relationship. While you’re at it, communicate how critical their work is to your success with donors. Give them examples. Figure out a reason to call again next week. It’s important to have a very good relationship with finance and to help them know how they fit into the donor world (offers, asks, reporting back, stewardship).
  3. Program People: These are the “product” people. This is what you are “selling.” You present their programs and services to your donors to show how your organization addresses the societal need that the donor cares about. It is so critical to have all of these program folks as close colleagues. They need to understand that without them, the donor could not accomplish what THEY want to accomplish, and the result would be NO funding. As with finance, call them up. Check in. Tell them stories that help them see how they fit into what you are doing with donors.
  4. Marketing / PR: So many times, Jeff and I see a disconnect between marketing / communication / PR and what you are doing with donors. That’s why you need to be close to these folks, and it’s why you need to be in touch now. Call and make a connection. Show them how they fit in to your fundraising efforts.
  5. Operations / Receipting / Back-office folks: In many non-profits, the operations folks are an afterthought relative to the funding and attention the frontline team gets. Back-office employees are often under-appreciated. For that reason, you should be in touch. Show that you care, thank them for their contributions, and share with them the critical role they play in the donor relationship.

I know this is a lot. But a brief check-in here and there with each of these folks will go a long way toward developing a connection.

Do it because you’re all human beings motivated by the same mission. And as you strengthen your internal connections, you’ll make progress on your journey to build better donor relationships.


This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on June 5, 2020.