The desires of your donors

(Part 1 of 2)

My colleagues and I have interviewed hundreds of people, exploring the likelihood that current supporters of our clients might endorse and support some proposed initiative. The interviews are confidential — we don’t report what individuals say—but their comments strongly influence the advice we give.

In the process we have learned that donors from coast to coast want the same things. As one client said to us, what we list here is now the price of admission to being considered for significant support.

1. Clarity“Show me why you exist and what your work will accomplish.”

Mission and vision is paramount. During one study several long-time donors told us “I don’t know what they do anymore. . . . I don’t have any idea what their vision is.” Their financial support was on the verge of evaporating, whether either party recognizes it now.

2. Passion“Show me something to care about.”

Everyone responds to passion. It’s contagious, it’s convincing, and it energizes people. If the person displaying the passion is credible, people are drawn to the cause and are much more open to joining in.

3. Goals“Tell me some concrete results of your work and our gifts.”

Most donors increasingly want to support efforts to reach goals that can be measured. Some still show some willingness to fund noble striving for which no immediate outcome can be measured or even described, but only if the trust between donors and the organization are exceptionally strong. Increasingly, however, people ask organizations for discernable, measurable outcomes.

4. Impact & Sustainability – “Can you keep it going? Or will I be on the hook forever?”

Explain the extent that the program will have in making a long-term change in the program participants. Show you have a strategy to grow and develop the program so that once the seed money runs out, you can continue to run the program.

5. Innovation & Dissemination – “I would love to see something new.”

Funders have been funding the same social and economic problems for decades, and they're tired of helping charity after charity in fighting the same issues. Funders are not only interested in the creation of new approaches to solving old problems - they also want to know that you have a plan to share your successful model with others.

6. Realism – “Are you kidding me?”

Be careful of the claims you make. People have come to realize that there are limits to our ability to change the world. With this mindset, funders look for very specific causes with measurable results to which they can give their money. 

7.Accountability“Please don’t make me ask you to report.”

Accountability is the heartbeat of lasting donor relationships. Simply put, asking for accountability is asking for transparency: “Tell me what you’ll do with my gift; Use my gift the way you said you would; tell me the results; Give me the information and tools to evaluate that result.” Concerns over accountability are behind struggle or many organizations who mistakenly think they will be able to build endowments for their day-day budgets. Donors tell us, “Why would I give to an endowment? Money now, to get what in the future?”

- Larry Matthews

(Coming in part 2 - eight more desires of your donors)