Raise donors, not dollars

Today I want to briefly address partnership programs. In other words, donors who commit to support your organization on an ongoing basis.

Growing relationships with donors isn’t completely different from how you’d cultivate a strong relationship with a friend. Honesty, transparency and accountability create a foundation that can be built upon.

The trouble is that many organizations speak to donors as if they are selling them a used car: selling them on features and benefits; speaking to them as if they had no pre-existing relationship.

Such tactics may work to get a one-time donation, but partnership between a donor and an organization is about personal investment.

So here are a few principles I believe organizations should keep in mind as they raise donors.

The mindset of a partner is “missional”.

While “benefits” are a nice perk, people who partner with an organization want to be part of the cause, not just get “stuff” in exchange for a commitment.

If you build relationships based around getting stuff, what happens to those relationships if the stuff goes away? A commitment focussed on cause runs deep. A commitment focussed on stuff goes away when someone else offers better stuff.

Cultivate the right answer to the “so that…” statement.

A partner is not simply a “transactional” relationship. Think of partnerships as *”so that…”* relationships.

Yes: “I give so that others can be blessed as I have been…”

Yes: “I commit so that this service remains in my community…”

No: “I give so that I can get an iPod.”

Let me be clear: I don’t have a significant issue with “give to get” models for fundraising. However, that model should be within the context of a larger strategy that reinforces mission and cause. Otherwise you are not raising donors, you’re simply raising dollars.

Donors aren’t buying something, they are giving to a cause. Partners are advocating a cause, not joining a program.

Reinforce the value of commitment.

Speak to and grow partner relationships based on what they are a part of.

“This is what your support is helping…”

“Because of your support…”

“This is made possible because of your commitment…”

The more you highlight this through testimonials (audio, video, text), the deeper the connection and responsibility a donor will feel to your mission.

One last thought

There are certainly benefits and perks that partners can get that acknowledge their special relationship, but these should never become the basis for the relationship. A partnership based on a cause is a relationship that will last, endure sways in the economy, and — ultimately — attract others to be a part of it too.

Raise dollars and you’ll have a successful campaign. Raise donors and you’ll further your mission.