Fundraising publications often focus on giving statistics, results of tests to determine the most successful strategies and cutting-edge methodologies. While those things are important, a fundraiser will have a difficult time succeeding in raising funds if he or she neglects one important factor: the person giving the donation.

Possibly one of the greatest challenges fundraisers face is the fact that people tend to be a bit irrational. They may say one thing and do another, or fail to respond the way you expected because of their past actions. But we can’t simply shrug our shoulders and ignore the reality of unpredictable donor behavior. Instead, we must constantly strengthen the bridge between our organization and the donor.

Three ways to do that are:

  1. Never take any donor for granted. Yes, that seems like a “no kidding” statement, but the truth is, too many nonprofits – usually in the name of cost-effectiveness – are doing just that. Donors choose to give to your organization, and need to be reassured that they made a truly good decision. Sending out a receipt is not “overhead”; it’s relationship-building. Reporting back on special projects is not something we do once a year in an online report; it is an ongoing priority. Give your donors more than they expect and you’ll likely build relationships for the long-term.
  2. Focus your conversation on the donor (the listener). In an article titles “The 12 Golden Rules of Conversation,” Reader’s Digest includes “do not do all the talking,” “avoid unnecessary details,” and “choose a subject of mutual interest.” Those are good reminders for all fundraising communication: make sure we include the donor in the “conversation” (it’s not just about what we the organization has done), stay focused so donors remain engaged, and avoid trying to be an “equal opportunity presenter” of every project and instead focus on what will hold a donor’s attention.
  3. Respond. Letters, emails and phone calls from donors are time-consuming, but these are great ways to strengthen a relationship. You can respond to many with a “form letter” – just make sure if sounds genuine and personal. Picking up the phone and calling may not only resolve a question more quickly, but it is also powerful for relationship-building. Bottom line: never treat donors as interruptions; they are our lifeblood!

Resolve in 2018 to find new ways to build stronger relationships with your donors. That investment will return dividends for years to come.