In June my Mum passed away.
As you can imagine I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently. The funny memories, the lectures about doing the dishes and the little life lessons she subtly passed onto us as kids. I was at work after the funeral and realised that she also taught me some of the foundation skills that I use every day when working with donors.
It’s not about you. Why are you even still sending out organisation-centric mailings? Donors don’t want to hear about how great you are. They want to hear about what you’re doing with their money. They want to feel valued. They want to know the money they contribute makes a difference. Share a story with them and show them what they’ve helped accomplished and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not worth the effort. You’ll find quick enough saving money in ‘efficiency’ will cost you in retention.
Listen. Don’t be afraid to get to know your supporters. Find out their passions, hopes and the stories of why the cause is so important to them. Relationships are key – if your donor feels like you understand them then they’ll trust you and the organisation you represent to accomplish their goals. Don’t forget, it’s a two-way street, so don’t forget to let them get to know you as their contact.
Some people won’t like you. You will lose that grant you applied for. You will lose a donor relationship you nurtured. You will have a bad day and that’s fine. Self-improvement comes from lessons learned when things go wrong. Remember to take a deep breath and use all the data you can to improve for next time.
Don’t stay at your desk. You’re not going to really learn about your organisation staring at a screen. Get out and try and see what it is your charity does first hand. Spend a day at a project and meet the beneficiaries. If you can’t get there then meet the people around your office, hear their stories and why they do the things they do. You’ll find your passion to accomplish the organisation’s mission grows the more you do.
Don’t be afraid to show the world who you are. Fundraising craves for the personal touch. Use your first name, speak clearly and connect with your donors. Even the simplest things like hand signing a letter can make all the difference. Try putting a picture of yourself in your email signature so they can see your face or send a handwritten thank you card. You’ll see the benefits of spending a little time on your donors quicker than you think.
My Mother was a community champion, a local campaigner and passionate about how we engage with everyday people. In her own words she wanted to “dedicate my life to leaving it a little better than I found it”. This is what we do as fundraisers. We help those who wish to change the world and provide a means to do so. With their passions, we show them the tools to fix the world’s problems, and keeping those relationships is key to changing the world. My Mum was my hero, but she hasn’t left me. She’ll live on in the work I do and the people I meet with the lessons she taught me – and am now teaching you.