Development professionals know that donor relationships don’t end with the ask. Providing meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investment is an important way to ensure that donors feel valued, setting the stage for lasting commitment.

But what if we could take that perspective a step further? Not only does the journey continue after the ask, but every aspect of a donor relationship leading up to a financial commitment is part of the same journey. When every contact with a donor is strategically planned to help the donor advance to the right on the Donor Commitment Continuum, then the moment of “asking” takes its rightful place as a natural step in a continual, iterative process.

Consider the point of view of this development professional:

If you’re doing your job correctly, then often you don’t have to really do the ask, because you’ve figured out what they’re interested in and passionate about. You’ve got the academic or the clinician on board, and they’ve done their part in inspiring the donor, as well. And if everything’s lined up the way you’ve planned, then chances are, the donor wants to know: What can be done? How can I contribute, and how can I make this happen?

Often, most of my meetings, I don’t have to do “the ask,” because we’ve done all the hard work. Really, it’s a matter of getting the donors to a point where they’re very inspired and they want to know how they can contribute.

With this point of view, we can think of all the phases of a donor relationship cycle as strategic steps in a philanthropic journey. Consider how we might refresh our perspective on these phases of the journey:

Locate/Confirm Philanthropic Passion(s)

As we discuss philanthropic opportunities with donors, we should always frame those conversations around financial support. Avoiding the mention of money in a conversation about passions and interests will make it more difficult to bring up later, but mentioning it early can keep the conversation focused.

Partner on Evaluation

After they learn about a philanthropic opportunity, donors take time to evaluate the opportunity at their own pace. In partnering with them, we can guide their journey by planning strategic evaluation activities to anticipate and answer their evaluative questions. Subject matter experts, leaders, and others can be involved to inspire and educate.

Build Trust-based Relationship

As we meet with donors, we can direct the conversation toward philanthropy by sharing an organizational update. This tool is a great way to establish credibility, generate and gauge interest. Share philanthropic opportunities in this context to ensure the opportunity to do something meaningful through the organization remains the focus of your interactions.

Finally, remember that the contribution isn’t the final destination in interactions with donors. Rather, the goal is to facilitate a lifetime journey that results in meaningful philanthropy, enabling your organization to achieve its important mission and donors to experience the joy of giving.

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