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Time to Chit Chat

Conferences and professional development opportunities are not only great because they provide us with a chance to learn more about best practice techniques or new trends in fundraising, but they often remind us of vital aspects of what we should be doing and inspire us to get back on track a little.

Earlier this year I was at the FIA Conference and internationally renowned fundraiser and author, Simone Joyaux, was one of the key speakers. She, among others, really reminded me of one key activity we should be doing as much as possible as fundraisers… talking to our donors!Most organisations are having lots of one way communication with their donors, whether it be through direct mail programs or newsletters, but it’s just as important for us to listen to our donors too. We can learn so much about them, about anyone, through the art of conversation. Here are a handful of ways to better engage with and communicate with your donors.

Phone them

One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply pick up the telephone and call your donor. This is such a simple and convenient method of connecting with individuals more personally, yet it is something that is not done often enough. Making phone calls to donors doesn’t just have to be in response to a donation they’ve recently made; although saying thank you is definitely a great reason! You might know their birth date and you can give them a ring during their month of birth to wish them a Happy Birthday, or you could just phone them because they’re on your list. Whatever reasons and system works best for you.

Donor functions

In addition to hosting fundraising events, your organisation should also regularly invite donors in for ‘donor engagement’ functions. These are for me of your more regular or higher donors and provide an opportunity to engage them further in your cause. These sorts of events often don’t raise any money at all, because you would cover all the costs of inviting your guests. It might be a morning tea with your CEO or a board member, or a tour of a facility (if you have one). It’s really important to remember to connect with your donors individually at the function too, and of course, undertake any required follow up after the event.

One on one meeting

Often with major donors or potential bequestors we take time to visit them a couple of times a year. This is necessary to continue to build and maintain relationships with our key supporters. This may also be valuable with your more committed donors, such as long-term or monthly donors, so you can get to know them better. This can often take place at a pre-arranged time at a donor’s home or in a local cafe.

Social media

Although social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, are generally seen as mass communication, they do often also give you opportunities to engage with individuals specifically. Invite donors to engage in discussion about your mission, recent outcomes and campaigns. And be sure to reply to any comments made by your supporters to keep the conversation happening.

Focus groups

There is no greater way to make someone feel valued than asking their opinion of something. Holding small focus groups with donors and/or volunteers to ask them for feedback on something such as a new campaign or direct mail piece. Hopefully, you will have a chance to have a little chat with these individuals before and/or after the focus group and they will feel more connected to your organisation after such an experience.

To learn more about our donors, Simone Joyaux’s top five questions to ask when speaking with them are:

  1. Why did you first give to our organization?
  2. What interests you most about organisation? Why?
  3. Why do you give to our organisation? How would you describe our mission? What does it mean to you?
  4. What are the most critical results you expect our organisation to produce?
  5. What do you tell others about us? How do you describe this organisation to others?

But remember, as mentioned in Hank Rosso’s book, ‘Achieving Excellence in Fundraising’, “before one asks important questions regarding values, it is necessary to establish an atmosphere of trust“. Make sure you don’t delve into the more personal questions too soon. Just like you would with any relationship, you need to build familiarity and trust so there is a good foundation.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick out some of your donors’ records and get in touch. Not just today, but make it a regular occurrence. Schedule in some time every week to talk to your donors; even just 30 minutes each week will make a difference. Let me know how some of your conversations go, too.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.


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