Tips for Seeking Gifts (from Donors at All Levels)

Let’s face it, donors can be intimidating. So it’s important to remember that they are just people too. They want their charitable support to go to organizations that will use their money wisely and have a positive impact on the community being served.

A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article in the February 9th, 2012 edition, entitled ‘Seeking Gifts from Wealthy Donors: Tips from Philanthropy Advisers,’ had some suggestions for seeking gifts from wealthy donors (made by philanthropy advisers).  While these tips were specific to wealthy donors, I believe they can work for donors of any size giving capacity. Here are my thoughts on just a few of their suggestions:

  1. Know your donor. Know what interests them – and how their company might have synergies with your organization. In today’s day and age this is becoming even more important. People are expecting much more personalized communication. And with technology, it has become possible to do so with those at all giving levels. Just make sure you have a good database and use the information you have.
  2. Keep donors in the loop. Regardless of whether you have good news or bad news, it is so important to keep them updated about how things are going. You never know when someone could have a great idea that could help solve your dilemma. In addition, people can’t help if they don’t know that there’s a need.
  3. Take no for an answer. This could easily go a step further. It is generally acceptable to ask for feedback – not because you think it would change their mind, but because you’d like to do a better job of describing your project in the future. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by people who want to help and are more than willing to provide that feedback.
  4. Don’t address requests for support generically. I can’t emphasize this enough. How can you call me your friend if you don’t even know my name? Again, with the advancement of technology it doesn’t take much additional time to complete a mail merge and print out individualized letters. And another thought on this – customizing ask amounts on past giving amounts (while encouraging a moderate upgrade) helps donors determine how much they will give. Anything we can do to make it easier for our donors is a good thing.
  5. Don’t take rejection personally. It’s about the mission of the organization you are raising money for – not you. In that same vein though, make sure that you – and everyone who represents your organization – is clear on what your vision is. It’s not as much about what your organization does – as it is about how your community will be different as a result of what you are doing. Also, make sure that you have clearly defined the community need that is being addressed – in a way that will help your potential donor truly understand the need.

Regardless of the potential giving level of the person you are speaking with, these thoughts should help steer you in the right direction.

What additional ideas / thoughts do you have?


Tips for Seeking Gifts (from Donors at All Levels) — 3 Comments

  1. Good advice, and it bleeds over into asking groups / people / businesses for auction items, too. One tip I like to give on donation letters is to be sure to include someone’s name. As you mention: “Don’t address requests for support generically.” Goodness, a letter without a name is surely designed to end up in File 13. Be specific in who you address and what you want.

  2. I am new at seeking gifts from donors.Your tips have been very enlightening.Rejection is the fear that I often entertain.Tips like the ones you gave,will help diminish the fear.

  3. Pingback: Kirsten’s Fundraising Headlines – February 21, 2012 | Growing Your Donors