December 27, 2008

“Do we really have to nurture relationships? They’re already our donors. And we have so much other work to do.”

Yes, people actually say that to me — in workshops when I’m presenting. And sometimes, in the early moments of a consultancy, a new client just barely starts to whisper — but then they see my frown.

Do you know the biggest reason wealthy donors stopped supporting charities? Because they no longer felt personally connected. Of the 38% of donors who stopped their support to one or more charities last year, 60% said they did so because they just didn’t feel that connected anymore. That’s from the 2008 Bank of America Study of High-Net Worth Philanthropy available at the IUPUI Center on Philanthropy.

But there’s more…

Some people say that donors don’t really want a relationship with an organization. That may well be true.

But what about the many donors who do want a relationship?

Donors use your organization as a conduit to achieve their desires. They give through you, not to you.

Think of me: I’m angry about the injustice in the world. I want social justice – equity regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity / race.

How many different organizations can I give to? Lots. Equity Action Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation. Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. Women’s Funding Network. NAACP. National Committee for Lesbian Rights. Southern Poverty Law Center. Planned Parenthood. Many many many…

So if an organization doesn’t nurture the relationship with me, I can find another organization that will. And I can still fulfill my interests and achieve my aspirations.

Yes, relationship building is important. My good friend Doris always says, “Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.” So true. And real true with donors.

Yes, most donors want to hear from you, and not just asking for money. Donors want to know things like: How did you spend their money? How did their gift make a difference? How will their next gift make a difference? Whose life is better and why?

Are your thank-you letters and newsletters telling donors what they want to hear? Are you talking with donors, asking their opinions and finding out their interests?

There’s so much you can do to nurture relationships with your donors of both time and money. Some is no cost. Some is low cost. And yes, some strategies may cost more money. (Chances are, you can ignore some of those strategies.)

It’s way past time to nurture relationships between your donors and your organization. It’s never too late to foster donor loyalty through relationship building. (And remember, it costs 10 times more money to acquire a new donor than retain a current one.)

Read Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships. Tom Ahern and I explain why and how. We give you specific examples and tons of practical tips.


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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