If I told you you were a salesman, you probably wouldn’t take it as a compliment.
But think for a moment:
In many ways, your nonprofit is like a business. Your customers might be called “donors,” but you relate to them in much the same way as you’d relate to for-profit customers.
Just like businesses need loyal customers who come back to buy again and again, you need loyal donors who come back to give again and again.
How do you build that all-important “donor loyalty?”
The same way you build it with customers.
By making sure they consistently get what they want.
But how to do that? What do they want? And how can you give it to them?
There’s a science to this process. In the fundraising world, we call it being “donor centric.”
In a nutshell, being “donor centric” means that when you interact with donors, you focus the communication around them, instead of around your organization. In fundraising guru Jeff Brooks’s words,
“Being donor centric means paying attention to how your donors behave and making smart decisions based on those observations.”
It’s a simple shift, but it makes a fundamental difference.
Here are six ways to implement it:
1. View Your Relationship Through Their Eyes
Donors become loyal after you’ve built a strong relationship with them. And part of building a strong relationship includes thinking about the other person. Their perspective. Their needs and desires. Their triggers.
The more you work to understand your donors, to uncover the reasons and drives behind their giving, the better relationship you’ll be able to create.
So - when you’re looking to nurture a relationship with a promising donor, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do they give?
- Why do they give to us?
- What do they value about our relationship?
- What can we give them?
- What are we doing to be that giver?
- How are we getting to know them better?
- What are concrete ways we can develop closeness? If we were dating, for example, what would we do to surprise them?
Answering these questions, and acting on your answers, will help you create real emotional closeness with your donors.
2. Connect to Their Values
Why do you do the work you do?
Because you care. You’ve identified a need that matters, a problem that needs to be fixed, and you’re determined to make it better. That’s why you’ve taken responsibility to change the status quo.
If a donor is giving to you, chances are they share the same values. Or at least some of them.
Another step in building donor loyalty includes - identifying those shared values - and connecting to your donors based on them.
You’ll kindle within your donors a powerful sense of belonging. You’ll strengthen and concretize their sense that when they give to you, they’re part of something greater.
3. Tell Stories - as Much as You Can
Stories compel people like nothing else. Stories inspire. Stories connect. Stories kindle real emotions.
Never enter a conversation with a donor without an amazing, inspiring, or heartwarming story prepared.
Not a natural storyteller? Practice. Not sure it’ll be easy to find that many stories to share? Put in the work to find them.
Why? Because you want every interaction with your donors to leave them re-engaged, re-energized, and newly in love with your work.
That’s what stories can accomplish.
4. Make Your Donor a Hero in Your Story
This really isn’t complicated. All it takes is a simple shift from talking about “what we do” to “what you make possible.”
Your donors want to help. They want to make an impact. To make Klal Yisrael’s lives better. To increase Torah in the world.
When you talk to them in terms of “what we’ve achieved this month,” they feel pretty removed from the work they value.
When, instead, you speak in terms of “what you’ve enabled this month,” they’re able to feel like a true part of the holy work you do. And grow even more attached to your cause.
5. Thank Passionately!
No more canned letters starting “On behalf of…” and ending “Yours sincerely…”. You donors deserve better.
When you thank them, do it with as much passion and emotion as you invest in your pitches.
Maybe you’re not the one doing the thanking. Maybe it’s a secretary or another team member. Whoever it is, make sure they infuse their thank yous with genuine passion (absolutely possible, even for Brits like me!).
6. Be Mezakeh Zchus
(See Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 3, pg. 91)
Rav Dessler advises those soliciting funds for mosdos Torah to operate from the perspective that they’re not taking from the donor, but rather giving to him.
Giving your donor the zechus of supporting Torah.
Giving them the opportunity to be connected to eternity.
There you have it - six ways to become more “donor centric.” Six small thinking and behavior shifts that help you truly give your donors what they want - and attain their loyalty in return.
Which one are you going to work on this week? And what will you do?