I don’t ease into personal stories well. This one, however, resonates at the time of year where we seem to have too much stuff … and too little gratitude. Also, this message is timely since we are all constantly looking to create a greater and more meaningful donation experience for our givers.
Shaking the Money?
My father was a very successful fundraiser for a major university system. As a medical student, I recall visiting him after a successful gathering that raised a phenomenal sum. A young and naive me asked, “How did you shake all that money out of those rich people?”
That “Look” from My Dad
My father smiled, gave me that fatherly “look,” and explained that I had it all wrong. He was actually helping people do a good deed by donating money to a particularly worthwhile cause. As my father saw it, it was he who was doing a favor for those wealthy individuals and allowing them to do more elevated things with their money.
Change Your Thinking
This selfless notion was, in essence, the key to my father’s fundraising success. We must truly embrace the idea that we are helping people by enabling them to donate to a worthy cause. Donors are grateful to be giving and to be a part of a bigger mission. Grateful donors are happy and more likely to give again, eventually increasing their donations, and spreading the word to others who are looking for meaningful opportunities to give.
Personal Note (with some difficulty)
My father passed away a few years later from an aggressive cancer. Unfortunately, he had poor access to clinical trials that may have made a difference. To that end, one of our missions at CliniSpan Health is to improve health care access for all, especially as we create new fundraising opportunities for nonprofits.
Many nonprofits spend a great deal of time thoughtfully discussing how to properly thank their donors, supporters, and volunteers. Recognition awards, tribute dinners, and similar acknowledgements are all important, but these efforts may ultimately bypass the real problem: cultivating gratitude. How do we create a sense of gratitude from a donor? The gratitude that comes from being able to participate in an important cause.
Actions for Gratitude
- Tell Your Story Better: We all have room to improve what we say to, and how we communicate with, donors. Make your message meaningful and relate it to them. Keep evolving what you say and how you say it. Otherwise, it will come off as stale and the donor will be less likely to engage. Believe in yourself, your organization, and the power you have to help donors succeed.
- Engage to Engage: Make a plan to take your donors to meet the beneficiaries of their donations. Take them to the places where their donations are at work. Do it between fundraisers. Show them the faces of the people they are helping.
- Ask for Ideas: People love to be asked for their input, not just their money. Ask them, “How can we improve our messaging so everyone knows that we are on an important mission?”
- Elevate Your Relationship: Find common ground with your donors. Search for new meaning. Take your relationship with your supporters to a higher level. Remember that it is not just their financial support you need, but also their love and friendship, which will nurture their desire to be grateful.
The research is compelling. Grateful people are happier. Let this be the year that we are able to work together to successfully cultivate a stronger sense of gratitude within our donors, so that they find a higher purpose and true happiness in their giving.
David Lipsitz, MD FACS, has been a nonprofit supporter and clinical researcher for over 20 years. As the founder of CliniSpan Health, he developed proprietary software that matches new pharma donations to local, regional, and national nonprofits without the need for grant proposals, etc. His goal is to improve health care access for all and disrupt the current paradigm.