For a number of years now, the four members of our family have annually used this month to identify charitable organizations we feel are doing good work and, then, have made a gift to each. Each child, my wife, and I have each chosen our own organizations to support.
It’s been a rewarding, educational, and fun process. My wife and I have learned about organizations from our children that we knew little to nothing about. And our kids have started to experience the joy of being supportive of something beyond our immediate family.
Typically, these have been organizations with which we have had no previous relationship. Perhaps a child learned about an organization through school. Or perhaps research was done on a topic and the organization was discovered. Whatever the case, we would discuss the organizations and their missions, make our choices, and then, go online and make a gift during the month of December.
In the years we have done this, we have received thoughtful hand-written thank-you notes in response. We have received stewardship letters showing impact. We have received invitations to events. And, of course, we have received additional direct mail and email solicitations.
But what none of us have ever received was a message – a letter, a phone call, an email – asking 2 simple questions:
- What motivated your first-time gift?
- Would you like to learn more about our mission and how your support makes an impact?
To be clear, our family’s year end gifts haven’t been in amounts that anyone would consider transformational. But, for first-time gifts from strangers they have been in amounts that should have generated additional organizational curiosity.
Yes, as development professionals we should be thanking donors. Yes, we should be stewarding gifts and showing impact. But, most nonprofit leaders have gotten this message. There really is a much bigger opportunity.
The greater opportunity for most nonprofits is to stop only sharing our feelings (of gratitude). And to stop only sharing our impact (through stewardship). And to stop only sending invites to galas. Because these are all our messages, our stories, our marketing.
Instead, the bigger opportunity is to start being far more curious about our donors and their stories.
So, in January, when all of the hectic activity from this season of giving has ended, run a list of your first-time donors for the previous calendar year and sort them from largest to more modest total giving during the year. Review the list and see which of these new donors who made leadership-level gifts are unfamiliar to you.
And, then, reach out to them and ask these 2 simple questions.