What We Wish Donors Really Knew

Development professionals work tirelessly to educate donors.  In fact, I believe that donor education is really the core of our work.  This education typically involves one or more of the following areas:

  • Institutional education – we educate donors about our history, services provided, communities served, and institutional accolades;
  • Vision education – we educate donors about our mission, strategic plan, vision, values, and progress in achieving our goals and vision;
  • Philanthropic education – we educate donors about giving vehicles, endowments, annual giving, planned giving, and major giving.

Such education is exceedingly valuable.  Our donors need regular education in all three areas.

However, there are other things – not covered in the ways we typically educate donors – which, if understood by donors, would make the development process much easier.  Here, then, are 3 things development professionals really wished donors knew:

  1. Giving early matters more than giving late.  Whether the institution is in a campaign, a major gifts initiative, or a standard annual giving campaign, giving early is more helpful than giving later.  Giving early allows the institution to publicize early success and build donor momentum.  Giving early sets an encouraging model for other donors to make their gifts sooner rather than later.  This momentum gives the campaign or initiative a better chance for success.  And finally, giving early lifts the spirits of institutional and development leaders and encourages them to be more enthusiastic in their efforts.
  2. Giving benefits you. Yes, of course giving can be financially beneficial to individuals and families.  From the annual tax advantages of a current gift to the long-term tax advantages associated with planned gifts, giving can be a financial plus.  But most savvy donors understand this.  What many don’t understand is that research on giving suggests any number of meaningful and positive impacts of giving for an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  From strengthening the donor’s immune system, to the release of endorphins as part of the “Helper’s High,” giving greatly benefits the donor.
  3. Donors can raise more money than development professionals. The role of the development professional is to achieve gift income goals.  One of the most effective ways to increase gift income is to engage current donors in the solicitation of prospective donors.  Whether it is making the call with a prospective major gift donor or signing an annual fund appeal letter, the engagement of a persuasive current donor can be a difference-maker.  In some circumstances, other donors don’t want to hear from development staff members.  They want to hear from others who have been generous.

If our donors really understood and grasped these concepts, our efforts would produce increased gift income.

So, what are you going to do to see that your donor base becomes better educated?

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