Believers vs. Everybody

Believers in your institution’s mission give consistently.  Everybody won’t do that.

Believers in your institution’s vision for the future invest charitably.  Everybody won’t do that.

Believers in the leadership and values practiced at your institution remember you through their estates.  Everybody won’t do that.

As advancement professionals, our job is not to invite everybody to give.  Our job is to invite those who believe what we believe to give.  It sounds easy enough.  But we regularly fail to identify, learn about, and thoughtfully invite gifts from those who believe what we believe.

Here are 5 reasons why we fail (at times) to engage our believers:

  1. We don’t know what we believe.  What do you, personally, believe about giving?  What do you truly believe about the need for your institution’s mission in the world?  Are you completing tasks at work or serving a cause?
  2. When we know what we believe, we have difficulty articulating it in a concise, compelling, and clear voice.  Are you practiced and proficient in communicating the positive impacts of your institution?  Can you easily and quickly articulate the need for more charitable gifts at your institution?  Are you comfortable explaining how giving is virtuous and good?
  3. We don’t know what our believers believe.  From whom did they learn to be generous?  What other organizations and institutions do they support charitably?  Why do they support them?  How does your institution rank in their list of charitable giving priorities?  If you struggle to answer questions like these quickly and confidently, you probably don’t know your believers well enough to engage them fully.
  4. We don’t invite believers to give, we receive their gifts.  The more proactive you become in learning more about your institution’s believers, the easier it is to propose meaningful gifts to them.  When you get in the habit of proposing gifts to believers, gift income increases.  When your practice is to receive whatever gifts come your way, gift income will at best stay flat, and usually, will decrease over time.
  5. We don’t offer enough creative ways for believers to experience our institutions.  The more strong-tie relationships a donor has with your institution, the more she will believe in your goodness and champion your specialness.  Are you engaging colleagues and those you serve to help thank your donors?  Are you providing unique opportunities for donors to experience your mission?  Once you know what your believers believe, your institution’s expressions of gratitude should become more personalized and meaningful.

Trying to win support from everybody is tempting.  There are so many (in our database, our community, our alumni ranks, etc.).  But the best work done by advancement professionals is deep not wide.

And understanding beliefs – both yours and those of your believers – provides the most helpful channel to go deep.





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