We love to talk about “building relationships” in the nonprofit space. What does that mean? Learning to relate to donors doesn’t come from a book or a webinar. Rather it comes from active listening, paying attention and helping someone make an impact on the world via your charity. Time and patience are essential to get to know someone and earn their trust.
The most rewarding moment of my fundraising career came in the form of a seven-figure gift. I met the would-be donors during a program reception. We hit it off immediately with our common passion for travel. After a private, behind-the-scenes tour and many subsequent conversations, I learned a great deal about the aspects of the institution they cared most about. Those programs and resources they felt would make the greatest impact in the community. The relationship grew beyond the confines of the nonprofit organization and happily spilled over into our personal lives.
For years I continued to listen and pair their values with five and six-figure funding opportunities. Ultimately they established a significant donor-advised fund to support the institution in perpetuity.
“Tracy introduced herself to us at a lecture and our relationship grew from there. Since then she has gone above and beyond for us. She has pitched ideas to fund things that match our interests and has kept us apprised of how our contributions have made an impact.”
To this day, we share a close friendship based on mutual respect, love and admiration. Depending on the size of your donor base, the level of involvement you have with your top donors may be limited. However, your “donors” are human beings aligned with your mission who have much to teach you. Getting to know them is not only the beauty of this work but the way you build lasting relationships that keep your charity well-funded and positioned for growth.