The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Think Like a Donor

pursuantThe hardest thing to do in fundraising is think like a donor. Let’s face it; thinking like other people is just plain difficult. This may be why most marriages end in divorce. Or why teenagers feel so woefully misunderstood. Yet, getting this one thing right has the greatest power to unleash your donor’s generosity towards your cause.

Why is it so hard to think like a donor? How do we stray off course and lose our way? It’s easy. We get sidetracked with all the great things we want to tell our donors and we forget that the heart of our communication should be the exact opposite: it should be about the great work our donors have done.

Here are 5 ways to train yourself to think like a donor.

1. Remember what it’s like to be a donor.

When I think about making a major gift I think about the face on the person who will open up my envelope and see my check. I imagine their face lighting up and them joyously sharing the gift with their peers. I think about what that gift will let them do and how great they will feel getting closer to their goal. I don’t make my gift with anticipation about being “added to the file”; I make my gift with the anticipation of its receipt and its impact. The more you share in the joy of receiving it and share with me the impact I make, the more engaged I am and likely to continue giving and make a larger gift.

2. Treat your communications are a mirror you hold up in front of your donor.

Will your donor see themselves in the mirror? Will they like what they see? Wondering how to make sure they see themselves there? Put them in the picture. Give the donor the credit for the successes you can’t wait to share. Realize that people will respond to you if they see themselves the way they want to view themselves. Remember the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People? Dale Carnegie shared sage advice in his bestseller: “You’ll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping other people get what they want.” This is fundamentally the core of face to face fundraising. You don’t talk someone into making a gift. You help them realize they already care.

3. Embrace your emotional (right-brained) side.

We think of ourselves as extremely rational beings. The complete opposite is true, especially when it comes to giving. 90% of human thought and emotion happen without awareness. Giving is a proudly emotional experience. Moreover, as we age our brains become more right brained and more emotional.

4. Consider the questions they are asking themselves when they get your appeal:

How much can I give? Do I really care enough about this cause? Will my gift have an impact? The more you make them the hero of your work the deeper their connection to caring about your cause. The more tangible the outcomes the more they will feel like their gift really does matter and will be put to good use immediately.

5. Give them a problem to solve.

The next time you are tempted to draft an appeal or newsletter trumpeting your agency’s accomplishments remember Tom Ahern’s advice: without problems to solve our donors do not have anything to do. Aspire to make your donor feel like their gift is the last push to make the vision a reality.

Want some free help thinking like a donor? In the Mind of the Donor is a great guide for anyone wanting to kickstart your communications from the perspective of your donors.

Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2015!

The preceding is a guest post by Rachel Muir, CFRE & Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers through classroom, custom and online training. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Follow Rachel on Twitter here and Pursuant on Twitter here.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice