The Question You Should Be Asking On Your First Date with Donors | npENGAGE

The One Thing You Should Know Before Your First Date with Donors

By on Jan 23, 2014


Marc_Pitman, the fundraising coach  By Marc A. Pitman: Author of Ask Without Fear!, husband, dad, int’l fundraising trainer, coach, keynote speaker, capital campaign guy, bowtie guy, GenXer, coffeelover, & brewer. On Twitter

It’s not THEIR first date!

In my weekly coaching email I wrote about the single biggest donor retention mistake I see new nonprofit leaders making. I regularly get calls from people not meeting their fundraising goals. Whether they’re new CEO’s, Executive Directors, CDO’s, or Development Directors, they all say the same thing:

Well, I’m not going to ask on the first date!”

And they wonder why they’re not hitting their fundraising goals..

Misplaced emphasis

These well meaning leaders think they are being donor-centered. They think they are treating donors like people and not ATMs. They think they’re building relationships in a way that retains donors.

But this “not-on-the-first-date” attitude actually kills relationships.

When we impose the arbitrary 2-step approach that this attitude necessitates, we are acting like the relationship is about us, not about the donor. We’re the new people, not them. This isn’t their first date with our nonprofit!

Get donors and get revenue

That’s the point. The best way to maintain relationships is by building relationships between the donor and the nonprofit. Nonprofit employees come and go. But our goal is to help donors stay with us for the long haul.

When we assume that our first meeting with a donor is a “first date,” we blatantly ignore the long relationship that person has had with our nonprofit. In my book Ask Without Fear!, I tell a story of an 80-year old man who blew up at me at our very first meeting. We hadn’t even ordered dinner yet! I’d simply asked him, “How did you come to attend the School?” He erupted, “How many [expletive] times am I going to have to answer that stupid question?! Don’t you guys talk to each other?”

That encounter taught me a priceless secret: this gentleman wanted to start the relationship from his vantage point, not mine. He had a 60-year plus relationship with the school. He’d donated; he’d volunteered; he’d visited. And he’d seen many people in my position over the years. His relationship was clearly with the school. If it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have retained him as a donor.

Be truly donor-centered

So as you go about your donor visits this year, be truly donor-centered. Remember that you’re just another part of the donor’s relationship with your nonprofit. And that this isn’t the first date. Remembering that can help you ask without fear. And meet the revenue goals that make it possible for your nonprofit to be remarkable!

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Want to hear more about what Marc’s got to say on better donor retention? Check out his chapter in the new npExperts eBook!

npEXPERTS Donor Retention


photo cred: Flickr 


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