Change. It’s constant. History is littered with stories of people and places that resisted change to their detriment. But it is also filled with stories of people who said “What if?” and pursued change relentlessly. From the first light bulb to the latest update of a favorite tech toy, change shapes our lives.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of change, many of us find it uncomfortable, something to be avoided. For a fundraiser, introducing change to donors is challenging, whether or not it is the new CEO, a new project or simply a new format for the newsletter. Bring together a group of people who work in fundraising and you’ll likely hear horror stories of new logos, name changes and strategies that come and go.
For fundraisers, there’s one thing that drives us: raising funds. Wrapped up in that is relationship building and integrity and much more, but the end goal is raising funds. But when it comes to introducing change to our supporters, too often we’re caught in a quandary between what we know is good fundraising and what is just internal boredom at best and organizational ego at the worst.
In an article written for Fast Company, Robert Dean Duncan wrote, “Change is movement away from the present. And change is movement toward a future that promises not just something different but, hopefully, something better… Change is not what troubles most people. What gives them the greatest heartburn is the transition from the present to the future.”
That’s certainly true for our donors. Some felt a strong connection with the CEO, and that was a key driver to why they gave. They trusted the organization to do what it said because they trusted the CEO. Or, they like the logo or name because they know the history behind them and that brings a positive sense of nostalgia. Favorite sections in the newsletter are actually anticipated, and not having to search for them matters.
But stagnating is not good – for our organization or for us. So when it comes to introducing change, know that your donors might be slower to embrace it. After all, they haven’t been sitting in the meetings discussing it for weeks or even months.
Duncan writes, “Frame of reference must always be considered.” So give the new newsletter design time to become familiar. Introduce the new CEO every chance you get and enlist trusted people (to your donors) to provide an endorsement. Phase in a new name while celebrating the history that got you to the place you are today.
Perhaps the best reminder for introducing change to donors comes from a short video, Change Management for Nonprofits Explained Visually: “Change is less scary when you’re driving it. Consider your passengers.”