I love this opinion piece from Sunday’s New York Times: Why Fund-Raising Is Fun. When I tell people I do nonprofit fundraising for a living, I usually get a reaction that is a mix of awe and respect. I’m told “that must be hard” and “I hate asking for money.”
Fundraising is not just “asking for money.” It’s not a one way street, not solely a “gimme” or “begging” job. There are a long list of benefits for donors, including everything from the benefits of acting altruistically, to tax benefits, to making new contacts. The most important benefit, the one that makes the biggest difference, the one that moves people to act, is that:
Through donating to a nonprofit, you are changing the world. Fundraisers make that happen.
Donating is your way to be part of something bigger than yourself. It’s your chance to make a difference in the world for people who need help. It’s how you can make an impact on nonprofit organizations that are doing important work.
So, fundraisers actually have a very fun job: we get to make things like this happen. We get to connect people to causes they believe in, and we get to ensure that people make a mark on the world. I love being a fundraiser, and I have no problem “asking for money.” In fact, instead of asking for a favor, I am demonstrating an opportunity for people to make a difference. I am grateful every day that I get to do so.
I’ve noticed an “us versus them” attitude with fundraisers and donors. Us development staff spend hours trying to understand what motivates, inspires, and eventually causes donors to give. What makes them happy. What makes them sad. Heck, there are countless studies on what day of the week and time of day donors are on Facebook!
I understand the value of understanding the art of giving – and I appreciate that people want to understand what donors want instead of cramming solicitations down their throat. But when does this interest go too far?
I’m here to make a bold statement.
Donors are people, too!
Development staff get so wrapped up in understanding what donors might want that they get scared to do anything at all. Acknowledgement letters go out without personal notes. Major donors don’t get regular calls. Volunteers are never asked for money.
We need to make a change. The next time you send an appeal to a donor you know recently donated, take two minutes to hand write a note to thank them. On a random day, call up a major donor just to say thank you. Sending an acknowledgment letter to someone who gives regularly? Reference that!
These are not big changes. They’re small, but I promise you they make a world of difference. When was the last time you got anything hand written in the mail? Follow the golden rule – for every donor you work with, treat them the way you want to be treated. Simply acknowledge that they’re special.
Because donors are people, too.