As part of a new partnership with the Major Donor Special Interest Group of the Institute of Fundraising in the UK, Alliance magazine will be reporting from a number of events aimed at fundraisers. From listening to fundraisers discuss their experiences with donors, we hope to raise awareness of ways in which funders and fundraisers can work together more effectively towards what should, ultimately, be a common goal.
Jane Hogarth and Amanda Delew of Solid Management were keen to stress the importance of language at the event ‘From good to great – getting the most from your donor relationships’, held in London at the end of January. They have heard fundraisers talk of potential donors being ‘stuck’ in the ‘pipeline’ and been told of consultants wishing to ‘extract’ funds from supporters (see an interesting blog post from Beth Breeze on this topic). Language such as this reduces philanthropy to a simple business transaction with no meaning or feeling, which seems out of place in a field where giving is often inspired by a desire to do good.
While it may be easy for fundraisers to fall into the habit of looking at everything in terms of business when faced with funding targets to help meet organizational needs, Hogarth and Delew highlighted that they should always remember that donors are people too. The same can also apply to philanthropists in their dealings with those soliciting funds and the charities that they choose to support.
There can be a tendency to look at funders and fundraisers as two distinct groups of people, when actually it can be much more productive to consider both as being on the same side, wanting to do as much good as they can with the resources available to them. Solid Management demonstrated a number of instances where donors can have a much greater impact when they are recognized as people rather than simply as pots of money. From listening to their examples, a few interesting points emerged for philanthropists to consider as well.
How often do funders stop to think what else they can do for a charity once a donation has been made? If it is a cause that individual donors care about and believe is worthy of their money, surely it is worth more consideration than simply a one-off cheque. Funders shouldn’t be afraid of asking if there are other ways they can help a particular project; the worst the charity can say is no, but it could be that someone to help raise awareness, organize an event or simply make an introduction is exactly what they need. Donors can help to increase the fundraiser’s network, potentially inspiring more funding for programmes they care about.
Hogarth spoke at length about pledge events as a good way to inspire donors to give and to gain additional supporters. A committed, enthusiastic partner to assist with sponsoring the event, identifying relevant people to invite and following up with attendees, can be key to making events such as these successful. After all, there is no better endorsement than a peer saying that they have already put their money where their mouth is.
Conversely, those who have offered time, resources or goods in kind from their company to an organization could perhaps consider whether a personal donation would also be appropriate. If the charity is something they believe is worth supporting, a financial contribution can only strengthen this work further, and is something a fundraiser may be hesitant to ask for.
A danger of focusing on the individual relationship too much is that links between funders and charities can break down once a particular staff member leaves. How many donors have found that their funding of a particular project or charity has lapsed simply because their contact has moved on? It is always good to remember that a fundraiser is the representative of an organization, but that their good work will continue even if you don’t have the same level of contact following staff changes.
So the next time they meet with a fundraiser, donors should remember that the individual across the table from them is a person too. Rather than being apprehensive about what a fundraiser may ask, perhaps it would be better for donors to ask ‘What can I do for this organization?’
Jenny Conrad is Communication & Circulation Officer at Alliance magazine.
As a global publication focusing on philanthropy and social investement, reading Alliance magazine is an ideal way for fundraisers to gain insight into the latest trends and developments that donors are focusing on.Discover more about the magazine at http://www.alliancemagazine.org.