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Invested. Or Not.

What really motivates your best supporters?

Here’s a story. A small organization we work with is engaged in a capital campaign. Their goals are ambitious, and they’re just starting to learn the ropes of asking for major gifts. One of the lead development officers recently met with two comparable donors who had consistently given generously (and at similar rates) to their annual appeal. The organization knew well the capacity of the two donors and was aware that both could make large gifts.

After meeting with the development officer and the organization’s head, one donor made a six-figure lead gift to the campaign with the promise of more. The other was welcoming but only added a few hundred dollars more to her annual gift. Why?

Very simply, the first donor was invested in the mission. The second had only a vague sense of connection, even though she held the organization in high esteem. The first donor’s family had taken part on the organization’s programming—and they treasured those memories. They knew staff. They regularly attended events. They volunteered their time. They talked with other donors and hosted social events themselves. They had even sent emails to the director with some gentle criticism. They weren’t just emotionally connected in the organization—they were invested in the mission.

The second donor was not as engaged. They gave because they liked the organization, though from a distance. They had friends who gave. They liked the idea of lending their support. They enjoyed the occasional party. The organization was on their list to support at the end of the year, but it was never really in their hearts and minds.

Generous donors are asked to support many different organizations. They may support causes they believe in, but they give more generously when they feel personally invested in an organization’s mission and success. Brochures, videos and magazines can only go so far. Great fundraising also needs to create pathways for real engagement, face-to-face and hands-on. Some supporters become involved naturally and easily, but not everyone wants to host cocktail events in their home, serve on a board or board committee, volunteer to run silent auctions, or write letters on behalf of an annual fund. Smart fundraisers know how to create a variety of opportunities that allow supporters to become invested in the organization’s work and goals.

People want to know that they can make an impact—not just financially, but in other ways, as well. Organizations that plan and create opportunities for even the busiest, most reserved, or even the most non-social supporters to become truly invested in the mission will be more successful raising money.

PHOTO: Olgierd Rudak

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