23/100 Things We’ve Learned: The Golden Rule of Fundraising

To paraphrase the Golden Rule: Do onto your donors as you would have some organization do onto you.

Fundraisers attend lots of workshops to find the magic technique that will attract and retain donors. But really, don’t most of us already know what it takes to get and keep donors?

At a workshop I facilitated last month for small environmental organizations, I asked these as the starting questions:

  1. Thinking about an organization that really matters to you, what makes you donate to it?
  2. What keeps you donating?
  3. Why wouldn’t you donate to an organization?

Here’s what people said.

Why I donated:

  • I had a personal connection or involvement with the organization.
  • My family is connected to the organization and its mission.
  • The organization makes me feel good.
  • Giving makes me feel that I’m doing good – that my contributions matter.
  • I want others to experience what I have.
  • I have a sense of obligation – payback.
  • The organization does work (eg. advocacy) that I know is important but that I can not do myself at this point.
  • I wouldn’t want the organization to go away!

What keeps me donating:

  • I know that most of the money goes to the mission.
  • The group has an important mission that matters to me.
  • The group takes time to help me understand the whys.
  • They deliver results.
  • They tell me what they are doing.
  • There is honesty and transparency – even about challenges and failure.
  • The web site has lots of good information.
  • The group is doing a lot including activities I can participate in.
  • The organization has a local connection – I can SEE what they are doing.
  • The organization makes me feel valued.
  • They personalize their connections with me.
  • They are responsive – they speak to me and respond if I connect.
  • They do what I ask them to do (especially around their solicitation of my support).
  • They model my values.

What I don’t like:

  • The organization has no idea who I am or what I care about.
  • I get too much information and it’s not useful.
  • The organization only wants my money and nothing else.
  • Publications are not well matched to mission.
  • They use too much guilt.
  • We are sent products (mailing labels) that we don’t want.
  • The organization is not transparent, or we hear of scandals.
  • The materials raise doubts about the financial management of the organization.
  • We are concerned that our name was sold or traded without our permission.
  • The organization has no website or a poor website.

Now, while not every single donor will respond exactly the way that you respond to some approach from an organization, overall, must of like to be treated as if we matter, we appreciate honesty and we want to give to something that makes a difference about an issue that we truly care about. So why is this so hard to get right?

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