Talking Missional and Relational But Walking Transactional

Most advancement leaders talk a good game.

Most can tell you that the primary driver behind giving is the donor’s interest in the institution’s mission and vision.  They can tell you that building meaningful relationships with donors whose values and interests align with the mission and vision of the institution is the most effective way to increase donor giving.  And they would be correct on both points.

But something odd happens when you watch how some advancement leaders act.

It’s not uncommon for advancement leaders to push institutional mission and vision to the side when soliciting donors.  “Donors want to give to something specific,” it is said.  “They won’t give to the black hole of operations or general support,” is the mantra.  So, we create pages and pages in proposals and case statements of restricted giving options.  We begin the solicitation with the specific benefits of what a gift will do.  We focus on the benefits to the donor and the benefits to the institution.  We get transactional.  We try to sell something.

The problem, of course, is that we aren’t selling anything.  Giving isn’t about being transactional with donors.  When we are doing our work well, we are providing an opportunity for someone to fulfill their own need to give in a way that supports our institution’s good work.  We are educating.  We are facilitating.  We are listening and leading people in ways that align with their values.

Your donors give to your institution because they believe in your mission and your vision and because they are engaged.    And in fact, they do give to your “black hole.”  The most recent Bank of America-Merrill Lynch 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy found that 64% of high net worth donors in 2009 and 2010 reported making their largest gift to support the general operations of the institution.

When we move away from acting transactional and align our behavior – our walk – with our relational and missional talk, we have the opportunity to engage more donors at all levels and raise more money.

1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Thank you, Jason, for reminding us again that gifts in support of operations are first and foremost gifts in support of an organization’s mission. I’ve preached this message for years and until I am blue in the face, but mostly it falls on deaf (and desperate) ears. I hope your words are heard and heeded.

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