You've become close to your donors and now it is time to leave. What happens with the relationship? Should you make plans to stay in touch? Give them your new coordinates?
The simple answer is: NO. Absolutely not. This is not "your" relationship. A fundraiser's job is to build a relationship between the donor and the organization. We are the go-betweens.
Being a fundraiser reminds me of Mary Poppins, who swoops into the Banks family at just the right time. She is friendly and yet firm, provides structure, love, warmth and humour. When the winds change, Mary Poppins graciously makes her exit and the Banks family is stronger for her having been there.
Donors give because they love the cause. Not because they love you.
Writing a letter to donors explaining the transition and reinforcing their commitment to the cause is a gracious move. Here is an example of what worked for me when I moved jobs a few years ago:
Tell them why you are writing
It is with very mixed feelings that I’m writing to inform you that I’m leaving the “Awesome Foundation #1.” I’ve been presented with a great opportunity that I must take advantage of. As such, my last day in the office will be “three weeks from now.”
Tell them to keep donating
"Bill," your enthusiasm and support of this foundation is so very much appreciated. I do hope that it continues. For this cause – there simply isn’t another organization doing the kind of work this Foundation is. Your donations and involvement are very important.
Reassure them that the organization is still solid
Because of people like you we have been able to do incredibly well building the Foundation and exponentially increasing funding for essential life- changing programs. The Foundation has solid leadership in place and excellent staff to carry on much of the work.
Remind them of the specific work or action they are involved in
I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to work with you more on the XYZ project. Your great work will no doubt continue with the team here.
Be sincere and say goodbye
I am deeply grateful for the opportunities afforded to me as the Director of Development at The Awesome Foundation. In particular, your willingness to open your home and ask people to support this work. I will remember the people and my time here with great fondness.
Yes it is a little bit sad. Changes are bitter sweet. However, when you approach your donor relationships with this kind of transparency and authenticity, a really cool thing happens – your donors write you back, thank you for your work and wish you well. They also maintain confidence in the organization you are working for.
I remember feeling sad for Mary Poppins when she watched from the window as the Banks family went off kite flying. But we knew that wasn’t the end of the story but rather the beginning of the next one.
With such a high turnover rate in the charitable sector, let’s try to make the transitions between staff, as smooth as possible. Donors will be grateful we did.
Kimberley MacKenzie is deeply passionate about building the capacity of the charitable sector. She is a former Editor of Hilborn, Charity eNEWS and also works with a variety of organizations to advance a culture of philanthropy among staff and senior volunteers. Contact her via @kimberleycanada, or visit www.kimberleymackenzie.ca.