Donor love is an area where small nonprofits can actually stand out and be exceptional. But what is it exactly, what does this look like in practice, and why is it important?
In this episode, Jen Love, a partner at Agents of Good and fundraising guru, teaches us all about donor love and gives us practical and easy ways you can develop better relationships with your donors!
What’s (donor) love got to do with it?
With any good relationship, you need to take the time to dig deep into getting to know and celebrate that person. This means personalizing your approach for those supporting you, whether they give $5 or $5M, and letting them know how special they are to your organization.
We always hear about major donors but donor love includes both major AND "minor" donors. Donor love isn’t about how much the gift was, but rather, recognizing each and every gift as an act of love. Every gift is a major gift to our donors.
Putting your donors first can be scary and can feel conflicting when we are in the mindset that the mission comes first, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, your best donors are the ones that are mission-aligned. These donors give to you because they share the same values as your organization.
When you appreciate and love them, you rally up stronger support for your cause and they’re able to advocate for your mission in their own words.
Talk the talk, walk the walk
One way you can think of donor love is by simply telling your donors, “I see you, I value you and you matter. You matter to us, to this cause and to me personally as a fundraiser.” You can also say this without using words through action. Try giving handwritten cards, homemade cookies, or anything else that can be personalized for your donor.
Think of this as part of your ask. You can increase donor retention by appreciating and recognizing them throughout all parts of your fundraising program, instead of waiting until you have to write your gratitude report. Donor love is a practice that should be incorporated into everything you do.
Ask yourself, “Where does the donor fit in? How are they a part of the solution?”
Your donors want to hear not just what the organization does, but also what’s been made possible by them. It’s shifting the conversation from “what did we do as an organization” to “what did you make possible today.”
When you change your language to become more donor-focused, you can’t help but be a little more authentic, open and vulnerable. As fundraisers, our goal is to include our donors as a part of the story.
“Am I doing too much?”
Now you might be wondering, “isn’t this too much? We don’t want to turn them off or overwhelm them with calls and cards.”
Jen recommends trying out different ways and finding what works best and resonates best with your donors.
There is also something authentic about being vulnerable that makes you more human and relatable to those mission-aligned donors.
To be able to have these conversations, take their authentic stories and place their voice front and centre of your appeals, newsletters, the case for support or gratitude report is a beautiful thing that really resonates with both current and potential donors.
What about donor fatigue?
We also hear about donor fatigue often and that donors are simply losing interest or disengaging with our organizations. So why might this happen?
Jen suggests thinking of it from their perspective. Imagine you’re having a conversation with your friend and they mention that they’re having difficulties in their relationship where it becomes a bit too routine and the excitement is no longer there. The solution then would be to change things up and try something new to regain interest in a way that resonates with them.
We wouldn’t blame our partner for losing interest so why would we blame our donors?
Donor love is the philosophy of putting your donors first, caring about what they want, and what they need as open-hearted, loving, generous, kind people and creating exceptional donor experiences for them because they deserve it. This builds better relationships and in turn, raises more money for your important mission, which is that very same thing that your donors are so passionate about.
Listen to the full episode now on our Small Nonprofit Podcast landing page!
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Resources from this Episode
The Good Partnership Guide
CharityVillage Fundraising Articles
Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller
Jen Love on Twitter
Agents of Good
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Cindy Wagman spent 15 years as an in-house fundraiser at organizations large and small before founding The Good Partnership – a boutique fundraising firm focused on small nonprofits. She has worked in social justice, health, arts, and education organizations. She has overseen and executed everything from annual campaigns to multi-million dollar gifts. She became a Certified Fundraising Executive in 2009 and received her MBA from Rotman at the University of Toronto in 2013.
With more than ten years of experience in development, staff and stakeholder management, strategic thinking, partnerships, board governance, and program development, Aine McGlynn is a diversely talented, self-starter committed to finding creative solutions in unexpected places. Aine holds a PhD from U of T and has a history of academic publishing, along with her decade of nonprofit sector experience. She is a practitioner-scholar focused on how to help nonprofits build their capacity to be successful at fundraising.