Feedback = Involvement

on in Fundraising

Donors love the tried and true.

Donors are tired of the same old, same old.

Both are true – in the abstract. But how do you know when it’s time to shake up your direct appeal, dinner dance, annual donor cultivation event?

And, even if donors are telling you this loud and clear – declining donations, impossible to get a committee together, decreased attendance – how do you know what changes will be positively received, and what will be decried as a “change in tradition”?

The simple answer is – ask them. 


There’s an old saying in the fundraising world: “Ask for money you get advice. Ask for advice you get money.

It’s an acknowledgement of the intertwined nature of investment and ownership.

Once someone has made the statement “I believe in this group enough to hand over a meaningful portion of my hard-earned resources” – well then, they have an investment in your success. What follows (sometimes) is an attempt to leverage that donation by contributing advice to add to your success.

(NOTE: Whether the advice is, in fact, going to lead to your program’s success is beside the point – the impulse to help is the important factor.)

The reverse is true as well. Everyone likes to be asked for their opinion – it validates their connection to the organization. So asking for advice, especially on a fundraising-related matter, is a real acknowledgment to the donor that their thoughts matter. That they matter, in fact, to the nonprofit.

(Plus, you can get some really good feedback in the process.)

So check in, especially at a time of change:

We’re thinking of moving our annual dinner dance to a cocktail format. Some of our donors think it would be a nice to have a more informal setting, but others are concerned it will be hard to find everyone you want to see. Since you’re an important part of our Blast from the Past event every year, we wanted to find out what you think. Would you – and the people you know who come to the event, or might come – enjoy a cocktail event just as much as a sit-down dinner?

If they say sit-down dinner, then you can ask for ideas of what to do to make it a little splashier, or to shake it up a bit. If they say cocktail event, you can ask them what elements of other events they’ve attended might be good for you to adopt.

Either way, if you can find a way to take one of their suggestions – even a tiny piece of it – and put it into action, then you have the grounds for a further conversation.

It’s donor cultivation, it gets you valuable information, and it even puts the donor on the path to becoming a planner – a member of your team, not just a passive recipient of your fundraising appeals.

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