Do You Hate Your Donors?

Not to blame the victim, but–

One reason nonprofits fail at individual-gifts fundraising is their secret–or not-so-secret–hatred of rich people.  Well, probably "hatred" is too strong–it’s more resentment, the kind we all feel towards anyone on whom we’re dependent.  It’s a perfectly natural response to the situation in which every nonprofit staffer finds herself: begging for the agency, which quickly comes to feel like begging for oneself.  We’re the "poor but proud" of whom you’ve heard.

But let me suggest that the key to success with every fundraising technique is to treat donors like people.  Not like rich people, not like people who are hostile or clueless, not like people you might be able to manipulate, but like people who have joined you in an important cause. That, after all, is what they are; and your gratitude for that isn’t forced; it’s completely genuine.  And people love giving to grateful recipients.

It’s hard to be grateful because often they could do more–couldn’t we all?  The thing to remember is that our choice isn’t between perfect people who give money and flawed people who give money–it’s between people who give money and people who don’t.

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4 Responses to “Do You Hate Your Donors?”

  1. Jerry Case Says:

    How true, how true. As a donor I have given to organizations that treated me with genuine appreciation for my gift. These have wound up receiving continued donations over the years. I have also given to organizations that I think are equally wonderful only to be treated so badly in the end I’ll never given them a dine again. It’s a shame I know, but as I think I commented before, it’s about there being a personal connection not only to the organization’s mission but to the organization itself.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    All the more reason to get Board members involved in fundraising, or at least fundraising acknowledgement–if they divide the thank-yous among themselves, they’re not burdensome to anyone; and donors are hearing from a fellow supporter rather than just some employee, so there’s more of that “personal connection.”

  3. Vicki Says:

    Wake up, donors. The organizations (and people) you’re giving money to are up to their eyeballs in the work you’re giving them money to do. I’m all for appreciation … but let’s remember that, if you truly share a common goal with the organization, the best appreciation is a job well-done. If a personal connection is why you choose to give money to an organization (or not), you’re probably giving to the wrong organizations. Choose to give to those who are as impassioned as you about the enormous work to be done on issues you share. Then everyone will feel appreciated.

    Recipients didn’t get into this for the money or the gratitude. And neither should you.

  4. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Of course you’re right that gratitude isn’t the point–in fact, the Jewish tradition holds that anonymous philanthropy is the most virtuous, because it doesn’t require gratitude but is content with simply doing good. But it also doesn’t seem too much to ask people whose task you’re sharing to acknowledge that you’re there. If they don’t, you needn’t abandon the cause; but there are in most cases plenty of other organizations working for the achievement of that same cause, and you can just as easily write your checks to them. Finally, I can’t help but wonder whether the agencies that fail to send me a thank-you note are also failing to do other essential managerial tasks, e.g. paying the withholding taxes, reviewing the audit, checking job applicants’ references.

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