Musical chairs, your donors, and fundraising?

I think fundraisers should recognize that donors are playing a lifelong game of musical chairs.

The people you consider to be YOUR donors are circling around many other charities and, from time to time, they ‘sit’ with one that engages them properly and makes them feel good. Then, when the music starts playing again, they go around and around until they find another charity and take a seat there for a while.

Soon they begin to realize that fewer and fewer charity’s chairs are available (not because they disappear but because they are broken and make people feel ‘uncomfortable’). But still, may continue to go looking for another seat when the music restarts.

This goes on and on throughout people’s lifetimes. 

However, after a while, some of them decide to go sit on the sidelines. In other words, they stop giving altogether (which is why we’re seeing donors disappear — mostly the low-dollar givers). This happens because, too often, they sit and find the seat disagreeable. As a result, when they don’t get enough value from the experience in return for their money, they quit the game.

Others (especially those with capacity) continue to crave engagement, no matter the discomfort. They have grown more tolerant because they have moved to the higher tiers of Malow’s Hierachy of Needs. They want to give and they need to give partly because they have money to give. Giving, in fact, is what they desire in order to find meaning in their lives. For many, their yearning for your value-oriented engagement (not your crass spam, telemarketing or junk mail) is pent up. 

Your role in the game.

You need to invite people to play the game and you must make sure the seats are comfortable (especially for those with the deepest desire to give and the greatest ability to make impact).

Do that and amazing people with warm hearts and deep pockets will thank you by sitting in your seat — supporting your mission so it can continue doing its good work for generations to come. And, as a special bonus, they’ll never get up. Plus, they’ll ask their friends to join them.

My suggestion: Be a good host. Make these amazing people feel good so they play the game and sit in your seat forever. Then everyone will win.


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