Myth #1: Donors are focused on IMPACT not need

Barefoot Creative focuses on building strong donor relationships through communications and fundraising material. We are awesomely creative, putting our knowledge of fundraising principles to work for you.  

The short answer is: FALSE

Donors are focused on doing good and give because they see a real need. 

My husband and I participate in a community social agency that serves an evening meal every day of the week. On our night, we organize volunteers to come out and cook a meal for about 200 community members who struggle with homelessness and hunger. Our primary goal is to feed 200 people with a nutritious meal that tastes great. Our secondary goal is to make sure EVERY volunteer, no matter their skill level, feels they are contributing. If they don’t, they simply drop out. 

It’s the same with your donors. 

They give because they want to make a meaningful contribution to something bigger than they are. You give them that opportunity. Without you, they can’t provide excellent health care for sick children, or education for early readers, or food and water for struggling communities. It’s more complex than that, but they choose you because you help them achieve a life goal. 

We worked with a non-profit driven to impact-reporting. Month after month donors received communication pieces that illustrated the great work they were doing. And donations, slowly at first, went down. 

We did a phone survey to talk to donors about their declined contributions. 

Every donor enthusiastically supported the organization. The most common response was: “We LOVE the work you do! And are excited that you don’t need us anymore. We’ve decided to give our donation to XXX Charity, because they really need us.”

The bottom line: your donors want to be needed. 

There is a complex relationship between donors, impact and need. Donors give because they have a heart of compassion and desire to do good. That’s why emergencies elicit spontaneous and generous contributions. Giving to the Red Cross during a hurricane or tsunami just makes sense. Donors can clearly see the need. When an urgent and obvious need is presented to your donors, they will give.

I admit, it’s much more difficult to raise funds for complex social issues. We need to simplify the story without simplifying the problem. I strongly believe donors respond to complex issues when they understand the issues. Articulating need in simple language does not diminish its complexity.

Building strong relationships with the program team helps the fundraising and communication teams do better work. I am appalled at many of the fundraising pieces I receive that show little distinction. They are bland, boring and traditional. The only distinctive feature to identify the organization is the logo. I realize that there are successful “packages” that seem to do well. But fundraising is NOT about one package. Fundraising success is dependent on loyal, lifelong donors. 

Trust is at the very heart of the relationship between the donor and the charity they love. Trust is about relationship. Trust is about the organization doing what they say they will do. The recent collapse of the “WE” charity – extremely complex issues underlying the controversy – is a series of broken trusts that caused a shaky relationship between the charity and their supporters. When the foundation is shaky it will crumble. 

Push your agency to understand you and your unique contribution. Challenge them to push past pat answers and explore new ideas, new creative, new fundraising opportunities. Sticking to 1970 direct marketing practises may appeal to donors who are approaching their 80’s – after all it’s what they are used to. 

Reporting back to donors, giving impact reports is critical. Let your donors know your successes. We recommend you focus on the impact in collateral communications, annual receipts, newsletters and magazines. Resist the temptation to remove an ask from the update. It’s a perfect time to ask your supporters for an additional gift. They will see what you have already done and then you will explain what still needs to be done. 

Donors quickly understand that they are important. You need them to succeed. 

If you'd like a myth debunked let us know. Or talk to us here...we'd love to know what you think!

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