Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE
The New Donor: Gearing Up for the Next Wave in Fundraising
Are you ready for the next wave of new donors?
New donors, like donors before them, still want the facts, seek credibility, and listen to your stories.
But they are much smarter than donors of the last century—they're looking for nonprofits that appeal to their specific interests, have measurable results, provide action-oriented ways to get involved, set realistic goals, and give timely responses. They want this information on their terms, in their language, and right away.
And they have different passions. They’ve grown up in radically different environments. Most importantly, they respond when their needs are met.
More and more, our new donors are looking for some kind of involvement. This does not necessarily mean they want to volunteer but, rather, that they are looking for ways to identify with and become part of your mission. This involvement could take the form of blogging, attending webinars, joining a focus group, or volunteering, maybe not on a permanent basis, but a one-time deal. These involvement tools must be easily available day and night, particularly for our younger donors.
Dreaming big dreams and having high ambitions has given way to realistic goals and guaranteed achievements. Some new donors are still seeking that first job—the one they studied for in college. Their goals are rooted in the real world and what they know can be achieved. Other donors have had outstanding first careers, were laid off after a company merger, and are now seeking a second career—one they can retire from and is realistic. Our new donors expect that our nonprofit goals and strategies are realistic and in tune with that same world.
Our new smart donors want to know their voices are heard. They expect a timely response from us. In addition, they want to know how our nonprofit responds to a community need. They will look for a text message, information on our websites, or an updated blog. We have the tools to be timely. Our smart donors are waiting to see how we use them to spread information, communicate credibility, and state what needs to be done.
Becoming Smart Nonprofits
Assessing your nonprofit’s twenty-first century skills is a little like finding out if you are ready for a capital campaign. Before we can become a smart nonprofit, we need to know if we are really ready to be one.
Are You Ready for the New Donor?
Test your organization:
____ Our organization has a dynamic, interactive website that is reviewed weekly and updated immediately with breaking news
____ Our CEO uses our blog to communicate daily
____ Our fundraising staff communicates by mail, phone, email, texting, and all social media available
____ Our organization updates its privacy and anti-discrimination policies and communicates them to all participants
____ Our fundraising and program staff constantly interact in order to collect pertinent information for donors and prospects
____ Our organization is transparent and posts audited documents on our site in a timely manner
____ Our fundraising staff has a clear picture of the use of funds and communicates that to donors and prospects
____ Our CEO and fundraising staff communicate with donors and prospects daily
____ Prospect and donor interests are catalogued so communications can be tailored to each person
____ Our organization, database, and staff are all flexible
____ Our goals are realistic. We live in the real world!
____ Our staff is donor-focused and believes in reaching donors on their terms
____ Our organization welcomes innovative ideas and encourages staff to implement them
____ Our board is accessible and participates in all aspects of donor interfacing
____ Our board, staff, and volunteers support the organization financially
____ We have a strong philanthropic culture in our organization; everyone understands that fundraising is everybody’s business
____ We take the time to listen to our donors, clients, and volunteers
Nonprofit organizations tend to evolve slowly. There are many people and many personalities involved. It’s a little like starting a development office. Remember those days? Board members and the CEO were the first to do fundraising for a newly formed nonprofit. In fact, many provided substantial start-up funds. As the organization grew, program staff was added and then bookkeeping staff–all involved in fundraising. Then one day the fundraising office was opened and miracles were expected. Instead, that new director was faced with turf issues, “we always did it this way” syndrome, and the question of “where’s the new money.”
For the most part, these struggles helped organizations evolve with highly effective development teams. Sometimes, baby steps are needed or we can be revolutionary, but, at all times, we must be donor-oriented.
Delivering What Is Promised
Delivering what is promised is one of the most important things we will do and probably one of the most difficult. The donor is looking at our values and asking if we can be trusted and are ethical. As fundraisers, we must ensure that our communications are accurate with current information and numbers. To do that we must interface with program and finance staff.
Our new donors are seeking credibility. They want to be assured that our nonprofit is doing what it says it is and want to know how it is doing that. Continued updates to our websites are one way of communicating that information, but we must be proactive. We must reach out to other departments and find out exactly what they are doing, how much it costs, and when it will be accomplished. Then we must strategically channel that information to our donors.
Once we have the information we need, e.g., project goals and costs, our next step is to solicit the right donors for that project. Asking the right people to support a project and delivering the facts they need to make a decision are critical in working with our new donors.
Fundraisers do not have control over delivering programs, but we do have control over messaging our donors. We must keep on top of the program’s progress towards our goals. Most often, donors are forgiving if our organization does not meet its goals. To get that forgiveness, we must be in solid communication with donors, have their respect, and provide a solution.
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