Let’s face it: first dates can be awkward. Even if you’ve met the person in the past or know some vague details—“You’ll love her, I promise!”—everything is somehow brand new during that first official date.

The first time a potential donor engages with your community foundation may bear some resemblance to a first date. Maybe they heard about you from a friend or colleague. Maybe they saw some interesting news and decided to find out more. If you learn more about each other and you decide there’s matchmaking potential, one of you will make that next move that’s akin to asking, “Will you go out with me?”

Fortunately, as in today’s dating world, technology can help smooth the transition for foundations and donors to go from “first date” to a long-term relationship.

Technology Opens the Door

When donors ask to know more about you and what your foundation does, it is important to have this information readily available so that your response is clear, succinct and compelling. However, leave some flexibility in your talking points so that you can address what matters the most for each potential donor. In today’s world, this exchange frequently happens online and technology becomes your vehicle for providing information and building a connection. The key is to employ technology that makes it easy to have a genuine, forthcoming conversation. And of course, it’s equally important to be able to listen closely to the donor’s response to ensure you’re gaining a stronger understanding of their side of the story, too.

If the encounter is happening at a live event, offer relevant information and ask them if they would like to subscribe to your email newsletter or any other regular communications or touch points. If a potential donor then subscribes, send a warm welcome email that invites them to the next community event and continues the discussion on a personal level.

Technology can be a key element of creating a good first impression and sparking a meaningful conversation between foundations and donors.

Technology Builds the Relationship

One of the best things about technology is its versatility. It can be used to improve just about anything, including the subsequent touch points, or “dates,” with your potential and existing donors.

For instance, in the foundation-donor relationship, it can be hard to know where the donor is in the funnel.

  • Are they moving toward or away from making a donation?
  • Would they be interested in learning more about a certain cause or event?
  • When is the right time to tell them about the results of their gifts?

In the past, it was hard to solve some of these donor mysteries, especially across the whole donor base.

Technology helps you to better understand your donors and their position in the overall relationship with your foundation. With powerful donor relationship management technology solutions, community foundations can stay up to date with their donors in real time. You can track people’s attendance at events, monitor their support over time, and automatically keep their contact information and preferences current.

Donor management technology can also pair with other marketing tools, including email and direct mail. This type of integration allows you to reach out to supporters with information uniquely suited to them at exactly the right time. For example, donors who prefer direct mail could receive engaging personalized letters that inspire them to act.

Technology Secures the Relationship

If donors have been involved with your foundation for a while, it’s time to take the relationship to the next level. The best way to do this is through an exclusive donor portal, like DonorCentral. Portals can give your supporters a secure, personalized experience with your foundation across any device.

Every time a donor accesses your portal, they see information about the causes and communities that matter to them. In the spirit of relationship give-and-take, they can also suggest new grants, producing an ongoing dialogue between you and them.

When you invest in tailoring your donor portal so that it reflects your brand and meets donors’ needs, you’re ultimately enhancing the donor experience and strengthening your relationship.

From First Date to Ongoing Relationship

Community foundations don’t have an easy job. Acquiring and keeping donors engaged is an ongoing challenge.

Even if the “first date” is successful, there are the second and third dates to think about, and a hope that a lasting relationship will develop over the long haul. Fortunately, technology can help you to make the right first impression and foster a strong connection that can result in a long-lasting, meaningful relationship for all involved.


Charlie Vanek joined MicroEdge in October 2012. Charlie has had broad responsibilities in the software and information sector for the last eleven years including roles in Operations, New Product Development, Product Marketing and Business Development. He is responsible for MicroEdge’s partnership and acquisition strategy.

Charlie joined MicroEdge from Thomson Reuters, where he was Head of Insurance Solutions, Financial and Risk, directing Sales, Marketing and Product Development for Thomson Reuters’ insurance information and software business. Prior to that, Charlie had progressive experience in Thomson Reuters’ Business of Law division. At FindLaw, Charlie was a patent assignee to the Thomson Corporation for products that convert textual information to visual graphs.

Before Thomson Reuters, Charlie worked in Yield Management and Corporate Finance at Northwest Airlines. He has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He is on the Board of Directors at Open Eye Figure Theatre, a 501(c)3 in Minneapolis.

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