Stop asking for donations every time you connect with a donor. Stop only making phone calls to donors when you are asking for a sponsorship donation. Stop only asking a donor out for coffee when you are asking them to support a new project.
Now is the time to stop asking and start listening to donors. To achieve long-term success with fundraising, it is important to build relationships with donors. Through engaging donors in conversations and listening to donors, you can cultivate and nurture donor relationships. These strong relationships can lead to high levels of lifetime giving from donors.
To intentionally start listening to donors, the first step is to identify ten donors you plan to engage in individual conversations. Start with the ten donors with highest cumulative giving, the ten most recent donors or the ten donors with the highest frequency of donations.
After identifying the donors, enlist the support of fellow staff members, board members or volunteers who will meet with and listen to the identified donors. This is a particularly great opportunity for board members to participate in the fundraising process as it is a very comfortable and low-pressure way to interact with donors.
Divide up the list of identified donors and ask each listener to commit to meeting with 2-4 of the donors during the next month. Provide a list of questions to each listener, and reiterate the importance of listening to the donors during these conversations. It is important to capture the donors’ ideas and then report those comments back to the organization to be documented in the donor database.
During the conversation with each donor, the listener can take note of donor’s responses to these questions:
- Why did you first make a donation to XYZ organization?
- Why do you care about our organization’s work with XYZ?
- What is your experience with XYZ organization’s work?
- What are your thoughts on how XYZ organization should move forward in our community?
- What do you think the best strategy is for us to fundraise for XYZ organization?
Through engaging in conversations with donors, one can uncover the donors’ motivations for giving and interests, which can enable the organization to tailor future cultivations and solicitations for the individual donors. The conversations can also provide advice and guidance for the organization to help shape strategic decisions. In addition, the conversations strengthen the donors’ and the listeners’ relationships with your organization.
It is time to start listening.
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