Thursday, August 13, 2009

Music to Donors' Ears

Here's my list of the top ten things donors most like to hear from those seeking their support.

1. "We would appreciate the opportunity to earn your support." This is a good way for a fund raiser to start the conversation. The tone is solicitous and the key word is "earn." Acting or sounding entitled to someones philanthropy is completely off-putting.

2. "We are committed to taking the necessary time to understand what is important to you and to securing your trust." Donors have been over-exposed to the worst practices in philanthropy. They assume every call from a fund-raising organization will be an abrupt solicitation, not matter what is promised. They've been ambushed too often. Setting the right tone early on gets the donor off the defensive and establishes a refreshing, responsible, professional tone.

3. "We want to bring you in during the early stages of this project." That means the donor is not just going to be asked to support someone else's grand idea. They will be treated as a stakeholder. This is particularly important to entrepreneurs.

4. "The person in charge of the project (that we would like to interest you in) is eager to meet with you." Donors understand the role of fund raisers but, ultimately, before making a significant commitment, want to meet the person who will see the project through to completion.

5. "Our institution is making a strong commitment to the project." If the project you're raising money for is so dang important, your institution needs to show that it somehow committing resources to it, that it, too, has some skin in the game. An institutional commitment reduces the risk of failure and ensures the donor's money will be used more carefully.

6. "We want to show you how we arrived at this budget." This suggests the philanthropy seeking organization is completely transparent and is willing to show exactly how much it needs to get the job done. The days of the nice round numbers, i.e., "It will take a million dollars to get this done," are over. The new language sounds more like, "After careful planning, we concluded that we can complete this project with a budget of $927,312 dollars." (Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away).

7. "We have a project timetable with deadlines for each phase." That tells the donor your organization is determined to get the job done, that you're doers not just dreamers.

8. "We can not only tell you who will benefit from your support, but how and when." You've truly committed to those you serve.

9. "We'll craft a gift agreement to ensure that we keep our promises." That means the donor won't have to ask, "Whatever happened to my gift?" or to be surprised by how you use it. Good stewardship begins with a well-crafted gift agreement.

10. "Our gift agreement will include a stewardship plan." We will spell out how your gift will be announced, recognized and accounted for as the project progress and after it is complete.

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