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Monday, January 22, 2018

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Take the Donor-Centered Pledge (or die)
Tom Ahern

August, 2009

23 rules to live by (instead)

We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe...
1.     That donors are essential to the success of our mission.
2.     That gifts are not "cash transactions." And that donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks and wallets.
3.     That no one "owes" us a gift just because our mission is worthy.
4.     That any person who chooses to become our donor has enormous potential to assist the mission.
5.     That having a program for developing a relationship with that donor is how organizations tap that enormous potential.
6.     That we waste that potential when donors are not promptly thanked.
7.     That "lifetime value of a donor" is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate "return on investment" in fundraising.
8.     That donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.
9.     That acquiring first-time donors is easy but keeping those donors is hard.
10.   That many first-time gifts are no more than "impulse purchases" or "first dates."
11.   That we'll have to work harder for the second gift than we did for the first.
12.   That a prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.
13.   That donors want to have faith in us, and that it's our fault if they don't.
14.   That donors want to make a difference in the world -- and that every gift is an attempt to achieve that goal.
15.   That donors are investors. They invest in doing good. They expect their investment to prosper, or they'll invest somewhere else.
16.   That we earn the donor's trust by reporting on our accomplishments and efficiency.
17.   That individual donors respond to our appeals for personal reasons we can only guess at.
18.   That asking a donor why she or he gave a first gift to us will likely lead to an amazingly revealing conversation.
19.   That fundraising serves the donor's emotional needs as much as it serves the organization's financial needs.
20.   That we are in the "feel good" business. Donors feel good when they help make the world a better place. We sell joy, the joy of "feeling like you [the donor] have made a difference."
21.   That a prime goal of fundraising communications is to satisfy basic human needs such as the donor's need to feel important and worthwhile.
22.   That the donor's perspective defines what is a "major" gift. Is $250 a major gift? Many organizations would say no. Most donors would say yes. The donor's always right.
23.   That, for the donor, every first gift to a new cause can open a door to a strange and exciting world, and you're the guide to that world, through your communications.


© 2007 and 2009 Ahern and Joyaux. Adapted from Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships, by Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux (John Wiley & Company Publishers, November 2007)

Takeaway: I am a joy-bringer. As a writer of fundraising communications, that's my basic job description: joy-monger. My job is to put joy in someone's heart.

I know, from research and experience, that if I focus on making my audience (my donors and my prospects) feel good about themselves -- because they have chosen to join my good fight or stirring campaign or worthy cause -- then I will never, ever have to worry about bringing in money or retaining donor loyalty. Those will follow in abundance.


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