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Five Ways to Make Your Donors the Heroes

July 15, 2014

The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida's Lakewood Ranch Campus on Friday, July 11, 2014

The 2014 Fundraisers Forum at State College of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch Campus

At the center of every great story is the hero.

Our nonprofit work is made possible by those who invest in our missions, so at the heart of every success–every person, animal or place made better through our programs–is the donor.

On Friday, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals welcomed 150 local nonprofit fundraising leaders to the tenth annual Fundraisers Forum.  We found a number of takeaways to help us position donors as our heroes for long-term, sustained relationships with our organizations.

Are you putting your donors in the superhero costumes they deserve? We bet you are if…

  1. You see your constituents three dimensionally. The focus of Andrea Berry’s keynote address was the “3D” aspect of our constituents, knowing that each donor is not just someone who gives, but a full person, complete with a unique personal situation, interests and capabilities.  Donors may also be patrons, volunteers, clients.  Coordinating  messages from your organization and speaking to each aspect of your donors helps them to see us as smart, caring institutions that want to involve them at the highest level.

  2. Your donor management system captures good information. If your organization is to survive transitions in staff and board members over time, having a good donor management system to track the history of donors’ interactions with your nonprofit—as well as their preferences and backgrounds—is essential. The continuity this provides allows your donors to always be front and center, weathering changes that are destined to occur at your organization.

  3. Special events are strategic and mission-focused, allowing donors to easily see themselves in a compelling position to help. Consider Neuro Challenge Foundation’s Cause for Fashion event. It’s not just another nonprofit fashion show. The models are Parkinson’s patients and donors, connecting the event to the mission, presenting each person as someone who is more than the disease.  At Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County’s annual luncheon, it’s the girls who run the show—serving as table ambassadors, making the speeches, greeting guests as they enter. Donors receive a first-hand experience of the difference their funding has made in building strong, smart, bold girls.

  4. Your written fundraising plan guides strategies to cultivate donors. Without a fundraising plan, each person on your board or staff may have a different idea about your fundraising goals for prospecting, annual giving, major gifts, planned giving. When you have a written plan with goals–and strategies and human resources assigned to them (whether those resources are board or staff members)–you can better focus on the true center of your development efforts: your donors themselves.

  5. Your relationships with donors include lots of one-on-one time. Strong personal connections are built with one-on-one conversations, meetings, and follow ups. The more interactions we have in which we are simply connecting, not asking, the more we cultivate possibilities for long-term support. And the hero in this kind of personal, continuous relationship is always the donor.

 

Special thanks to 2014 Fundraisers Forum keynote and breakout presenter Andrea Berry, director of development of Hardy Girls Healthy Women and former national training director for Idealware; and to breakout session leaders Janet Ginn, CFRE, senior vice president of development for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Lisa Intagliata, CFRE, director of philanthropic events of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation; Carisa Campanella, care coordinator of Neuro Challenge Foundation; Kay Mathers, director of community relations of Girls Inc of Sarasota County; and Tom Melville, executive director of the Literacy Council of Sarasota County.

 

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