The #1 Mistake in Fundraising Is…

Have you ever heard the fundraising suggestion, listen your way to the gift?

I love the reminder to pause…with intention.

Listening your way is asking questions that you sincerely want answered (building the relationship), seeking a donor’s opinion (considering their needs), and being patient (conceding your timeline).

After all, what we do is more than planned giving. It’s planning a personal legacy.

With that in mind, I boldly suggest that the #1 mistake is our industry is rushing your donor.

Put Yourself in the Donor’s Shoes

So how do we combat our desire—and the ROI—to hustle? To start, in every donor interaction, get out of your head. Stop thinking about it from your perspective and put yourself in the donor’s shoes. How would you like to be walked through a charitable conversation?

Here are some ways to put your donor first:

Meet the donor’s needs. Everyone has three motivational needs (credited as Self-Determination Theory, first presented in 1985):

  1. Autonomy (having a choice; being in control of one’s actions and behaviors)
  2. Competence (feelings of mastery; knowing you’re good at what you do)
  3. Relatedness (feeling connected to others; a sense of belonging)

You can create opportunities to fulfill these needs, like conducting surveys, sharing gratitude reports and inviting donors to events or to meet with your team. These efforts give donors a choice, help them feel connected to your mission and demonstrate that their current dollars are doing good work.

Strengthen their affinity. Giving USA recently told us that the number one reason people give a planned gift is an affinity for the cause. Your job is to build that. Demonstrate impact. Tell specific stories. Show visuals of your work in play. Have those receiving help tell their stories—video would be an especially impactful way to cut out the middle man.

It Doesn’t End After the Gift

Your relationship with donors doesn’t stop with the gift intention. Although a planned gift is often viewed as a donor’s culminating gift, it’s not over; relationship building must continue. Remember, Dr. Russell James also had very good news for fundraisers when he released research on the positive impact of annual giving after an estate gift intention. That’s where your ROI argument arrives.

If there’s one truth in planned giving, it’s this: As planned giving professionals, we care deeply about making true, lasting connections. We care about relationships. And you can’t rush those.

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