May 25, 2019
What Donors Want: A Relationship With Results

By Angie Moore

Dec. 20, 2006 — As the end of the year approaches, we are reminded of setting our personal goals and creating our “wish list” for the coming year. For some of us it’s a daunting task. For others, it’s simply a carryover from last year’s list.

Which brings me to my next question....

As we move into a new fundraising year, what’s on the wish list of charitable donors? Is it the same list from 2006 just carried over to 2007? My opinion is that it is the same list. Simply put, I think charitable donors are going to be more focused on what they needed and expected from charities during 2006 – but with a growing persistence and insistence. And, in true “wish list” fashion, some donors came closer to getting what they asked for in 2006 than others.

I have the advantage of seeing multiple sides since I’m a nonprofit employee, a marketer, a charitable donor, and volunteer. And from my perspective, it’s pretty simple...

The 2007 Donor Wish List...
  1. To connect and align with a great cause
  2. To make sure action on the goals is being taken
  3. To have relevant options & play a part in the mission
  4. To have a be “known”
We are all aging and life is getting busier. Add to that fact the continued growth in charities in the United States and you have a very complicated situation for charities to find the right people with whom to build the most loyal and long-lasting relationships of involvement and support. Individual time and money are highly-prized commodities, and as supporters of charitable missions, donors are making decisions with more precision than ever before.

Donors still want a connection with a charity – an alignment of views and values around the charity’s mission or vision. In the end, it is an exchange between the donor and what they expect and the charity that needs the donor to realize its goals. Very few charities exist in a space that is not challenged by a competitor and donors are keenly aware of that fact.

With limited discretionary dollars and time available, donors have the ability to truly research and find the best charity to fulfill their needs. That bond between the charity and the donor must be on various levels to ensure both parties are truly fulfilled by the relationship.

But, it’s not just about how the donors “feel” about their relationship with a charity. The charity must “seal the relationship deal” by proving its performance through actions. Donors will continue to assess and reassess their decisions relative to their philanthropic relationships. They want results and want to feel as though their participation in the mission is making a difference. If they don’t see impact on the mission or progress towards a goal, the alignment of what the donor wanted from the relationship and what the charity was trying to accomplish comes into question.

It doesn’t stop there. Just as donors want to hold their chosen charities accountable for commitments and goals, they also have high expectations about how their relationship develops and changes over time. Donors want relevant options that can only happen if there is a dialog between the charity and the donor. This has been extremely difficult for many charities to master outside of the 1-to-1/high-donor relationships. Donors want to be actively involved in relationships with charities; they want to be in the driver’s seat relative to how they engage with a charity, how they are communicated with, and what types of opportunities they are offered. They want access to information from the charity and they want to inform the charity of their interests: what they consider important and what needs they have.

The 2007 wish list is not much different than what I believe was on the 2006 wish list. But as years come and go, donors are gaining a clearer vision of how they best fit into the mission and goals of various charities. The relationship between a charity and its donors is a real one. It is business and personal. It is emotional and physical. Donors expect charities to understand that and expect to be seen as a pivotal part of the mission. As charities, we owe it to those we serve and the missions we pursue to help our donors “check off” their wish list.

This article has been republished with permission from the December 1, 2006, issue of The NonProfit Times. For a free subscription, click here. Author Angie Moore is managing director, constituent relationship management, for the American Cancer Society and is based in Atlanta.

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