It can be easy—perhaps even a habit—to rely on asking for contributions from donors and potential donors who have an obvious connection to a particular project or organization. Perhaps their family has been making annual donations for generations, they are alumni of that school, or they had a family member who received healthcare from that institution.
Certainly, nothing is wrong with asking for this type of contribution. The development professional and donor both become accustomed to this ritual of loyalty giving.
Imagine, though, what could happen if that donor felt a deeper connection to one or more of the organization’s projects or programs and if the donor knew how his or her contribution was impacting others. What would that engagement look like?
Here are three ideas to help you deepen a donor’s engagement and commitment to the important work of the organization:
- Introduce the donor to multiple members of the organization.
As donors deepen their engagement, they naturally must be engaged with more and more people from the organization. Helping them build these relationships creates multiple anchors throughout the organization. People have “a rich constellation” of passions; they are often eager to share their resources with others who have similar passions. For example, a donor we interviewed shared that, based on her interest and expertise in a subject area, she was invited by the academic institution on whose board she served to visit that subject area’s department and also act as a guest lecturer in one of its classes. This interaction deepened her overall commitment to the academic institution. In addition to her gift of time, she was also moved to make a financial contribution.
2. Ask for something besides money.
As mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with loyalty gifts. Those contributions are beneficial to the organization and can serve a great purpose. But asking only for these gifts can be limiting—for the institution and the donor. You don’t necessarily have to ask for more money, either. Instead, consider asking donors to be actively involved with the organization, project, or program.
One donor we interviewed shared her experience of entering a meeting with the intention of writing a check to support their medical research, but she was never asked for money. Instead, she was asked to join the board of the institution. “I think they [the institution members] knew very well what they were doing… if I had written the check, it would have probably been a one-time donation. But in getting me involved, in helping me become more educated, in making me a part of the process, they’ve got me for life.” Asking for involvement rather than money is a great tactic for dealing with young professionals who are long on enthusiasm, but might be short on financial capacity.
3. Put yourself out there.
A donor once told us, “If you do not see yourself in the image of what you’ve grown up to become, then how can somebody else see you in that image?” Be passionate about what your organization does. Demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for what your organization can offer others. Be prepared to explain with great confidence why someone should play a part in the work of your organization. People will respond to the passion they see in you, so don’t hesitate to share the things that inspire you.
The next time you find yourself preparing for donor meetings, stop and ask yourself: Is there a bigger role they can play—or perhaps even want to play—within the organization? Use the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion(s)™ to uncover those that resonate most deeply with their personal stories and offer them opportunities to engage in a meaningful way. By doing so, you may gain a donor’s lifelong commitment filled with passion for your organization’s priorities.