We were several minutes into our conversation when the donor sighed and said sadly, “You know . . . giving is not often a ‘feel good’ experience for me.” I asked him to say more.
He continued, “As a donor, I want to attach a perceived value – an impact – to my gift. I want to be able to dream with an organization. But many times when I am asked to give, it’s on the basis of, ‘We need this program, facility or equipment.’ In these situations, I’m left to make a decision based on my sense of how this organization stacks up with the many others who are seeking my support. It doesn’t make me feel very good.”
This conversation brought home to me, once again, how important it is for an organization to make its case for a gift on the basis of the difference the proposed program, building or fund will make in the lives of the people benefiting from it and contributing to it.
Donors want to think beyond erecting a new science building because “the current facility is outdated and cramped.” They want to dream about the future scientists who will change lives and the medical professionals who will save lives using the education they received in that building.
As fund raisers, we know that needs, in and of themselves, do not generally motivate donors to give generously. We know the importance of telling our organization’s story through the real live stories of the people who have or will benefit from our programs and services.
We know . . . and yet, when we are face to face with prospective donors, we often forget to translate our institutional needs in such a way as to help prospective donors imagine the possibilities and understand the difference this aspiration could make in the lives of the donor, the organization, and the people served by it.
The next time you ask someone to consider a gift to your organization, make it a “feel good” experience. Help the prospective donor to see how she can be an enabler of actions that save lives, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, instill a love of learning, create beauty, nurture faith, and offer hope. Help her to see how she can be a facilitator of dreams . . . and allow her the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.