Donors give when THEY want to give, not when YOU want them to give

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

It ain’t about you.
Unsuccessful fundraisers want donors to give on their timeline, not the donor’s.

They think they can make the donor ‘move’ when they want them to ‘move’.

They ignore where the donor resides in the consideration process.

They let their boss, their leadership or their board tell them when they need to close the gift instead of filling a pipeline with qualified supporters at various stages of consideration so gifts drop consistently throughout the year (when the donors are ready).

Come on folks… donor-centricity is a way of life, not a buzzword!

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12 responses to “Donors give when THEY want to give, not when YOU want them to give”

  1. Rob Robinson, Consultant says:

    Greg… Your comments are “right on point”. I have been in business (both for-profit and non-profit) for over 50 years and now spend my working time as a consultant to non-profit development teams. I am regularly amazed at the lack of understanding by many board members and bosses concerning just how the “fund raising process” works.
    I like to use the analogy that fund raising is like farming… if you wish to have a “bumper” crop, you have to spend time doing the proper steps to realize a maximum yield (ie. Investigation, Cultivation, Solicitation, and (most important) Stewardship). There’s also a time factor involved, as these relationships are not formed and maintained overnight! This isn’t rocket science… but simply common sense!
    Ok… I’m off my soap box and thanks for the outlet!

  2. Jim Spencer says:

    When we are expected to live and die by metrics, this point gets lost. I don’t think anyone really cares when our fiscal year end is. IF they do care about years, it is year end but I feel most folks give it is best for them. Same holds true with bequest intentions. Does it really have huge impact (except for metrics) if someone tells us they are leaving us $500,000 in their will before fiscal year end or three months into the next one? They won’t be leaving us the money in actually for several years or more. It is great and important to have goals, but sacrificing donor good will in pursuit of the monetary goal can result in loss of the gift and the donor.

  3. Gary Monnier says:

    Greg, you have it nailed and Rob embellished it perfectly. You’d be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many boards think you can just “parachute” into a prospect’s living room or office (in non-COVID times) and solicit a major gift — having paid no attention to the “spade work” necessary to bring a prospect to the rightful point of solicitation. It can be frustrating for the staff who are “ordered” to carry out such hip-shooting.

  4. Cindy Blake says:

    Truth to all comments!

  5. Kendall McCarter says:

    We have a very business minded board of directors and I constantly have to reinforce that just because someone gave $50,000 last June doesn’t necessarily mean they will give it this June. It may be April or it may be July… The donor may be on a special trip or a child’s wedding so we can’t have the conversation about their gift in the same timeframe as the previous year. When a board wants month over month comparisons that can be misleading from a revenue positive or negative standpoint. As a development pro I should not force a gift conservation just so some board members can feel good about a report. As long as we get it before the Fiscal Year ends and everything settles out, everyone is happy. Good forecasting is critical to make adjustments along the way

  6. Development officers will always walk a tightrope between what institutions, administrators and what board members want to “track,” moving donors along a gift spectrum-sometimes reasonably measured, yet often unreasonable.
    We live in a linear world of thought which then assumes all life situations, including fundraising models, should also be linear. However, major/deferred gifts are emotional, contradicting the linear processes and all timelines.
    Basically, the whole field of fundraising then becomes based upon wrong assumptions, and incorrect staff management.
    Fundraising needs to be viewed through a counseling lens, flexible, dynamic, relational, growth oriented, and seen more from a family systmes model than a linear business model. When done so, the staff become free to pursue gifts with enthusiasm, focused on individual and personal history and dynamics, along with discovering the internal process and timing of the donor. Put bluntly, smart, successful, wealthy pepole refuse to be used, manipulated and programed by anyone or any organization, no matter how “philanthropic” they may be. If boards and administrators encourage fundraisers to really, really makes it about the donor, starting with the donor, and nurtures the donor’s concern for the charity’s cause, gives ownership of the gift development process to the donor by respecting the donor’s sense of gift timing, walking through the life situations which upset even the donor’s own timing neverthesess the timing of the agency, helping the donor discover their philanthropic intent and learn their gift ability, (many first gifts are testing the water) all along as the development officer, presenting future gift impact, proving and providing current and future excellent connections with the agency-involvement and stewardship and making a challenging specific ask. Then this will result in a gift process with integrity, deep future commitment of the donor and repeat gifts-a life long donor. But, Americans are impatient, “results” oreinted, all anyone wants is a quick first gift, and in doing so, furndraisers miss out on learning what makes the donor tick and in the end, miss out on larger gifts. And, donors move on, as do development officers. No wonder, the profession results in such high turnover-it believes and promotes an inefficent “business” model.

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