12 ways to relate to donors

Building a rapport with donors is like building any other relationship, creating a connection counts. In his book “The Zen of Fundraising,” Ken Burnett shares 12 considerations to make when attempting to relate to donors.

* Remember that first impressions count. Welcome new donors to reassure them that their decision to contribute an initial gift was a good one. Welcomes should be prompt, personal, and never feature an immediate request for another gift.

* The same two magic words your parents taught you work in fundraising as well. Operate an effective thank-you policy. Providing donors with a “thank you” is a way to start off and build on a donor relationship.

* Follow these steps toward securing a second gift: acknowledge receipt of the donor’s first gift with a “thank you,” assure the donor that the first gift will be used for the specific purpose they requested, and take some time between the initial donation and your ask to provide measurable results that the donor’s first gift has been effectively used.

* Define, offer and implement appropriate donor service. The rules of customer service apply to donor service, if a level of service isn’t there, relationships won’t get off the ground.

* Road test your own and your competitors’ organizations. Arrange for a third party to write, telephone or visit posing as a genuine donor and track how he or she is treated. Make changes based off of the feedback you receive.

* Implement the service/profit cycle. The cycle ties customer loyalty to investment to employee satisfaction to customer satisfaction and back around again.

* Keep keys to donor service in mind. These keys include properly resourced customer service, keeping meticulous records, corresponding quickly and personally, and keeping open, honest and cheerful.

* Measure fundraising performance fully. Beyond the crude terms of funds raised in the short term, look at the ratio of regular donors to one-time donors, number of former donors reactivated, attrition and the like.

* Manage external suppliers. Suppliers work best when they are motivated by the cause and it falls on leadership to provide guidance, education and training.

* Treat your staff well. Happy workers make better fundraisers. Staff should be appropriately paid and operate in a pleasant work environment. Additionally, stress the intangible benefits of their occupation – sense of worthwhile achievement, peace of mind, etc.

* Make sure everyone “sings from the same hymn sheet.” The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.K., for example, developed an internal document of principles that ensured that employees were all on the same page.

* Embrace inertia. Nonprofit managers generally strive to combat inertia, but it can, at times, pay dividends. For example, donors that provide regular, automated payments are unlikely to pull the plug so long as the organization continues to provide sounds reasons for contributing.