Relationships are great, but it’s the money that funds your mission

publication date: May 10, 2013
author/source: Janet Gadeski

Our job as fundraisers is all about bringing people closer to us, according to fundraising consultant Guy Mallabone. People give their money to the things in their life that they feel most connected with, so bringing people closer to our organization means more money for our mission.

The process of drawing people closer is called cultivation. Mallabone defines it as “what you do to build the loyalty and commitment of donors to your organization.” The higher a person’s opinion of your organization, the more they will be willing to do for its mission.

People think highly of charities for either or both of these reasons:

  1. They understand your work, they see it as successful, important and well planned, and they perceive that you spend your money (or rather their money) wisely. That increases their respect and admiration for what you do.
  2. They feel that your charity appreciates them. They believe that their gift makes a difference, that they are noticed individually and cared about individually. That also increases their respect and admiration for what you do.

Both of these perceptions of your group build loyalty, he explains, but the two combined build the most loyalty.

Never take donors for granted

Donors aren’t automatically loyal to your charity just because they’ve given you a gift. You must earn their loyalty. Then you must earn it again and again as long as you’re in touch with those donors. It’s a matter of hard work and preparation, not magic. And it has to happen all the time.

It seems to be all about closeness, yet Mallabone is adamant that fundraisers must avoid the grave mistake of focusing on relationships rather than outcomes. Relationship building is a tool of fundraising, but it’s not the goal. The goal of course, is more support for your organization’s mission.

Manage each move

There is, however, an aspect of relationships that leads towards securing gifts, and can be tracked and measured. “Moves management” refers to the sequence of carefully planned activities that bring a donor closer to the organization. Moves might include things like a special communication from the board chair, an invitation to a presentation by the charity’s program staff, or a behind-the-scenes tour of a new facility.

Each move has an objective: individual communication, dialogue, expressions of appreciation. Each one is designed to bring the donor nearer to the point where you can ask for a major gift, with a reasonable chance of success. A chain of successful moves will bring you to your goal of raising more money.

How do you stay in the frame of mind to link seemingly nebulous activities like conversations and tours to dollars raised? Take a tip from Mallabone. His first question to himself each morning is, “What am I doing to raise more money today?”

These ideas are taken from a portion of Guy Mallabone’s presentation during The Extraordinary Donor Journey 2013, presented in Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto by Global Philanthropic.

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