Getting to the Heart of the Matter (and the Donor)

Getting to the Heart of the Matter (and the Donor)A local coffee shop often puts out two “competing” tip jars to encourage reluctant tippers. University of Michigan or Michigan State? Dogs or cats? One time, my tip would have been a vote for coffee or tea. I did a double take when I realized there were more tips for Team Tea than Team Coffee. At a coffee shop. Was I wrong to assume that coffee would be winning this one?

It’s easy to make assumptions about what people want, especially  donors.

It seems obvious what they are here for; they like what you do. That assumption could lead you to think that a donor call about legacy giving is a sales call—you need to sell them on a planned gift.

But people support nonprofits for all sorts of reasons beyond generic affinity for your cause. Perhaps a deceased family member was a longtime volunteer. Or maybe a grandchild had a life-changing experience at your institution.

The fact is, you’ll never know why they support you unless you ask. And finding out why is crucial to growing a long relationship with them. Relationships are built on understanding each other.

Instead of trying to sell them on a product, you’ll be in a much better position if you approach this as a service. Help them express what means the most to them.

How can you find out what matters to all of the people on your donor list? There are so many. They aren’t all stopping by, dropping their dollars into the jar that fits them most.

The best, most efficient way to find out what brings your donors to your organization is a paper survey, mailed to their homes, so that they are answering questions in a safe space to tell you why they care. People love to be heard; show them that you care what they have to say.

Canopy’s survey tool helps you understand the donor’s reasons for supporting you; it starts a conversation, which is the best way to find out what is most important to them. Getting a conversation started can be hard; it’s much easier when you already know what’s on their minds.

It’s always more satisfying—and more welcome—to serve someone than to try to sell them. Let’s get started.