Part 2- The desires of your donors

We have learned a great deal by interviewing donors over the past 19 years, and out of their far-ranging comments we have summarized what they're looking for in organizations they are enthusiastic about supporting.

Part 1 was posted November 8, 2013 and is found here:

8. Leadership“Show us how that you are helping set the pace in your field.”

If your organization demonstrates leadership in its field your supporters will believe they are getting greater impact from their gift and making a contribution to the whole field.

9. Strategy“Show me a credible plan ”

Donors want to know someone is thinking strategically about needs and issues, and are able to make critical adjustments as circumstances warrant. Good analysis and planning, carefully communicated, creates confidence and bolsters enthusiasm.

10. Authenticity“Tell me the truth about the work you do.”

Thoughtful donors expect that what you promote is real, and reflects the true priorities and convictions of the organization and its leadership. The willingness of donors to grapple with complex issues and dynamics is often underestimated. If they sense you are truly opening the doors to them, they’ll rise to the task.

11. Relationship“Show me that you know who I am.”

We interviewed a person who had supported our client very generously for more than a decade, and had served as chair of the board for much of that time. The individual showed us appeal letters from the organization addressed “Dear friend.” He asked: “Who am I to these people?” To him, the generic appeal letter simply negated what he thought was a two-way relationship.

12. Stewardship“Be reasonable about costs.”

Definitions of what is “reasonable” vary but everyone looks for evidence that the organization is efficiently managing its operations so that the costs of fundraising, communications and administration are acceptable. Intelligent donors (most people) don’t expect things to be done for free, nor do they expect staff to live in poverty or work without resources. At the same time, none will accept a cavalier attitude towards expenses.

13. Respect“I accept that you should ask me. You should accept that I may say ‘No.’ ”

Respect is central to a genuine relationship between a supporter and an organization. People’s circumstances change. So do their priorities. Yet many donors feel that organizations act presumptuously towards them, as though support in the past creates an obligation for support in the future. If they are confident that a “no” will be received in good faith and respected as a responsible choice, donors will be wide open to a new request or proposal, or an appeal for emergencies, or simply to renew past support.

14. Significance“Show me how to do something important.”

Nothing motivates people more than the desire to make a difference in the world. Dozens of fundraising texts tell us that “People give to people” and that “People give to mission and vision.” Behind those truisms is the deep desire to be part of changing things for the better. A direct connection between the donor and people being helped is very valuable.

15. Good Company“Do you play well with others?"

Funders want to know who else in giving and who you’re partnering with. They support organizations that can leverage resources and that will collaborate with other groups to carry out programs for greater impact.

16. Joy“I need something to celebrate in my heart, not just affirm in my head.”

I deliberately use “joy” here instead of “pleasure.” Donors experience “joy” when they can connect their gift with an individual and feel they are making a difference—and when making that difference feels like fulfilling their personal calling. In those moments, giving is elevated from a duty to a joyful experience. Most organizations cannot provide that experience all the time. But giving donors opportunities for such occasions is a true gift to the donor and greatly enhances their sense of being in a mutual relationship.

- Larry Matthews

- These two posts are updated and expanded versions of material that first appeared in Faith Today magazine in 2004.