What Do Donors Want?

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I just finished listening to Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human. If you haven’t read/listened to it, I highly recommend it. In it, he says,

The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.

I love that. A pitch, rightly thought of, begins a relationship, not a transaction. A transaction is one-time; a relationship is for-ever.

And I think that’s important. It’s important to nonprofits at least. It’s important because it’s what donors want.

Donors Want Outcomes

What do donors want? Simple: they want an outcome for their donation. Sure, there are lots of outcomes, but the fact is – they want something. While many people think donating means giving while getting nothing in return, donating really means giving while getting something different.

Here are just a few examples of things donors want:

  • A Better World
  • Recognition
  • Social/Environmental Change
  • A Tax Deduction

If we were to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we might find these in the upper tiers of the pyramid. But notice what (most) donors don’t want: relationships. Sure a few people want to be invited to your gala so they can network with your president, but for many organizations, donors aren’t looking for another invite, another mailing piece, another solicitation.

Those requests, and the relationship that embodies them, are the necessary evil of doing business. They want an outcome, and you’re the one who can give it to them. The nonprofit is a cog in the wheel of desirable outcomes.

How Outcomes Drive Donations

Every charity knows about the year-end solicitation. How many emails go out on December 31st with the subject line reading, “Don’t Miss Your Tax Deduction!” And they are effective. Thousands of people who have put off their donation to your organization get reminded about that one particular outcome: the tax deduction.

But a tax deduction won’t move everyone. Indeed, many people are driven by more than money. Some donors will give because it’s their last chance to get their name on a building or in a magazine. Others will give because they feel compelled to help amidst an international disaster. And still others will give because we simply can’t stand the idea of being out-performed.

But if outcomes matter so much, why don’t we share them more?

Following-Up with Outcomes

The truth is, donors want outcomes, and they will keep wanting those outcomes, even after they donate. This is why a simple “thank you” email is not enough. Sure, that’s better than nothing. But who gives only to get a thank-you?

If I’m giving for a tax-deduction, give me a simple receipt with basic instructions. If I’m giving for recognition, give me a preview of what that recognition will look like. If I’m giving to make social change, tell me what the next step is and how I can help.

And don’t stop there. People may not want your marketing materials, but they will likely want your follow-up materials – assuming your follow-up materials are all about the desired outcomes. And those follow-up actions make a conversation. Every time you deliver a desired outcome to a donor, you invite them to take another action.

And just like that, you’ve moved from a “transaction” to a “relationship.” Your pitch has become a conversation.

JonWhat Do Donors Want?

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