Donors As Collectors

Humans collect things.  We collect things of value (gold coins, vintage automobiles, rare art and books, etc.), and things that have little value (remember “pet rocks” and beanie babies?).  If you’ve ever had the solemn job of cleaning out a loved one’s home after a death, you are reminded, again, that we collect things.  It’s amazing how much “stuff” we collect and keep.  It’s a human characteristic shared by most of us at some level.

So, here’s a question for you:  Do you view your major donors as collectors?  If so, what are they offered to collect?  I regularly encourage my clients to establish or strengthen advisory groups.  Simply put:  They have extraordinary promise to transform your organization.  I recommend  establishing or strengthening advisory groups for a variety of reasons, with a primary reason to create a valuable “collectible” for major donors and prospects.  What is the collectible?  It’s the relationships with other people of influence and affluence.  Donors, especially major donors typically want to be associated with other major donors.  They want to collect relationships with others in (or perhaps above) their social and peer groups.  Advisory groups, when well constructed, populated, and implemented, provide this valuable collectible.

To understand how effective advisory groups operate, remember 3 points.  First, they are populated with people of national influence and affluence.  You don’t ask local “community volunteer” types, although they are needed elsewhere in the organization.  Second, they are diversified across many types of industries, both for-profit and non-profit.  Finally, they are tasked with a singular purpose:  to provide advice, counsel, and perspective on issues of strategic importance to your organization.  There is not much in the way of the organization reporting to this group.  Instead, we want to frame strategic questions for them and, then, listen to their responses.

You can scale down this concept to create advisory groups for specific divisions or programs of your organization.  But the deeper you position the advisory group in the organizational structure, the less valuable the collectible becomes – for the donors as well as the organization.

So, as you think about how to attract and steward major donors, what valuable collectible are you offering?


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