Do you know the special ingredient for creating fundraising success?
You’ll notice I didn’t say “secret ingredient.” That’s because it’s not a secret. It’s actually common sense. The reason I’m writing about it is that it is not yet common practice to the degree it should be.
The special ingredient is: building relationships.
Gerry Lenfest, 21st century philanthropist and Giving Pledge member, explained the importance of developing relationships when writing the Foreword to my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:
Knowing your prospects and understanding what motivates them are two critical steps in the [philanthropic] process. Quite simply, you cannot skip cultivation and relationship building and expect a successful outcome…. Do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another planned gift. We are also in a position to influence others to do the same…”
While Lenfest’s comments were about planned giving, they certainly apply to any type of fundraising. Strong relationships are the key ingredient to a successful philanthropic process. By building meaningful relationships, you will:
- Acquire more donors
- Retain more donors
- Upgrade more donors
- Acquire more planned gifts
- Generate more major gifts
- Inspire donors to become ambassadors for your organization
Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector in general is terrible at building relationships. This is one major reason that donor-retention rates have been steadily falling for years, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. While there is no shortage of great how-to material out there, charities are still failing to grasp the importance of embracing a robust stewardship program as part of the philanthropic process. You can search this site for donor retention to get some great tips.
For now, however, I want to share a heartwarming story of what can happen when you establish strong relationships with donors and inspire them to be ambassadors.
John’s Roast Pork is a destination sandwich stand in Philadelphia. John Bucci’s family-owned establishment has been around since 1930 serving the best roast pork sandwiches in the city. (Hey, Philly is about more than cheese steak sandwiches, though they serve those, too.) The James Beard Foundation designated the establishment as an “American Classic” for roast pork.
Unfortunately, earlier this month, John’s was burglarized. The perpetrator(s) got away with a few thousand dollars. The burglary also shut down the business until repairs could be made. The stolen sum included $1,500 that had been collected to benefit Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The charity maintains the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow donor registry.
Be the Match is important to Bucci. Several years ago, he fought a fierce battle with leukemia and was ultimately successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant. Since then, Bucci has been a supporter. At one point when he contacted the organization, he requested to meet his marrow donor so he could thank the person. However, he was told that the organization’s guidelines did not permit this. Here’s what Bucci told Philly.com he did instead: