You’ve heard the expression in advancement and development circles,
“We can’t keep going to the same donors over and over again. The well will go dry.”
That’s not altogether true. But since it’s such a widely-used analogy, let’s play with it a bit.
Certainly real water wells can “go dry.” So, that part is accurate.
But, looking at why actual water wells go dry is helpful in understanding why human donor “wells going dry” doesn’t need to be an advancement professional’s concern.
Wells – real water wells in the ground – go dry for 3 basic reasons:
- Not enough precipitation to replenish the groundwater aquifer. The process of rainwater refilling aquifers is called “recharging” and wells can go dry if there is a drought. In donor terms, this is analogous to the donor no longer having any income or assets. This, of course, rarely happens. If it should happen, there is nothing an advancement professional can do.
- Too much usage. A well can go dry because too much water is being pulled from the aquifer. Imagine a farmer digging a new well to tap into a local aquifer to water his fields. A well that had been relying on that particular aquifer for years may start to reduce its output because there is little water left. In donor terms, this is analogous to the donor pushing themselves toward poverty because they give away far more than they should. I have never seen this occur with a major donor.
- The well isn’t deep enough. If the well isn’t dug deep enough, there may still be water underground, but the well won’t be able to pull it to the surface. In donor terms, this is analogous to an institution not engaging the donor meaningfully and, thus, not being a charitable giving priority for that donor. This happens too often.
Without question, our best donors from the past are actually our best prospects for the future.
Simply put, if we meaningfully engage our best donors and build durable relationships with them based on mission and vision, their “giving well” for your cause will not go dry.
It’s our close friends, not strangers, who will invest charitably with us.
Thanks to my Gonser Gerber business partner, Jane Eaves, for suggesting this topic.