Between Pandering and Ignoring

When we seek to get the attention of a philanthropist to give to our cause, how do we go about it? The approach you choose will materially affect your level of success and has everything to do with how you view your donors.

Some nonprofit leaders bend over backwards to give the donor everything—and I do mean everything—the donor wants. Find the donor’s “hot buttons” their “weak spots”. Don’t know them? Do the research. Although some have called this approach “being donor centered”, I call it pandering.

Giving a donor whatever she wants is the fast track to mediocrity and irrelevance. Don’t think that donors won’t enjoy it for a while—although they’re likely to take their serious philanthropic investments elsewhere.

On other side of the equation, there are those nonprofit organizations that see their donors as invisible. Donors give, the money comes in and there’s no need to say or do anything more. Some call this being focused on the mission and not on funders. I call it ignoring.

Somewhere between the slavishly obsequious donor centered mind set and simply treating donors as automatic tellers is what I call engaged persuasion.

Consider the words “Engage” “Persuade”. Both suggest—demand—a meaningful exchange and ongoing relationship with another. It means taking your donor-investor’s needs seriously but also knowing what you really believe. It means understanding that the gifts you receive from you donors were their money, which they chose to bestow upon you for a serious purpose but understanding you’re a trustee for their gift, not a robot.

Millennials—adults between the ages of 25 and 35—especially want to be engaged—not enticed or ignored. Give it to them straight. They can take it. Don’t disappoint them.

Principle 4 of The Eight Principles™ is Learn & Plan™. Take the time make the effort to learn what your donors are all about. You’ll both reap the benefits. Now that’s a unique fundraising idea.