If your charity is falling short of its fundraising goals, either in revenue or in donor retention, you ought to carefully examine how your organization is stewarding donor feedback.
While not all donor feedback may be flattering; the process of gathering it does impact an organization’s effectiveness and sustainability. The value donors bring to charities is both financial and advisory; and if both are managed well charities can place their futures on a more solid footing. To illustrate my point, I share two scenarios:
For many years, Charity #1 has maintained a high net worth group of partners and over time has developed a false sense of security and entitlement with the relationships. As the organization’s board and executive team embark on significant strategic transformations with governance and program delivery, they fail to inform their donor partners and when receiving donor feedback they fail to heed the advice. The relationship has eroded from valued partner to one of assumed funder.
Charity #2 developed a detailed partnership strategy supported by a culture of philanthropy, driven by the collective effort of its board members and employees. The strategy includes a deep commitment to executing various feedback-loops to open up the dialogue between donors and charity. It’s thru these exchanges that the executive leaders, including fundraisers, gather critical ideas and feelings from donors about strategic direction, shared outcomes, social impact and their relationship. The partnership is an authentic collaborative one; built on the principles of trust, transparency and ‘we are in it together.’
In both scenarios, the impact of action and inaction have a ripple effect on the health of partnership, and ultimately the charity’s ability to garner future funding.
For Charity #2, I would advise keep doing what you are doing; while Charity #1 more introspection is needed around attitude, behaviour and strategy. The list below provides some immediate corrective steps:
- Conduct face to face conversations with donors to ask questions, and carefully listen to and consider all responses.
- Conduct on-line surveys to gather collective responses examining performance, antidotal remarks, and the level of satisfaction with your donor-charity relations.
- Host an annual advisory forum to engage donors in ‘idea generation’ to enhance your partnerships, operations and outcomes.
- Find opportunities to ask for advise rather than money. Partners like to contribute to organizational success, not simply fund initiatives.