After running several campaigns, I’ve concluded that the most crucial ability that a development professional can possess is what I’ve called “the empathy factor.” This means that in the effort to establish strong relationships with donors that result in final (or even first-time annual funds) gifts development professionals must be aware of their donors and, as much as they can to put themselves in the shoes of their donor’s shoes. Section 18A Tax Certificate
I vividly remember having a conversation with a president in a bid to find a major donor , who was aware that we would ask for $1 million and it was to be used to fund the creation of an endowed chair. He was an alumnus with pride of our engineering school and we were aware that the expertise he gained from his university helped him to create a chemical business in Ohio that had sales in the hundreds of millions. The company was today a family-owned company with his daughter as the chief executive and his son working in the top management.
The president was present at our meeting. president made the request to the table. John Do you think I trust you to help us complete the silence phase of the campaign with a $1 million donation to an endowed engineering chair?” John got teary-eyed like donors consider the implications of gifts this large. John’s reaction however, was a surprise to people present. John said: “Ed I’d love to give that donation. However, I would like to support a chair in a the family business because it’s the only thing I have here that’s so meaningful for me.” He spoke of his admiration and love for his daughter who runs the company in particular, and also that business schools were required to enhance their programming and expertise for family businesses. Then, after some discussion and discussion, the president agreed.
What lessons can we learn from this tale? Yes, we received the $1 million gift. But we did not fully understand what drove John. This experience helped me reconsider the development process, and particularly solicitation in a way that is completely donor-centric.
How do you do this? I propose six fundamental principles that can aid development officers in building stronger connections with donors, which aid both parties in assisting to complete gifts.
As mentioned earlier, the first it is called the “empathy factor.” Development professionals must place themselves in the donors in their shoes. This isn’t always simple since donors have different lives than staff members. The most important thing to do is your research (prospect research) and interacting with donors who live in their region to absorb all that can be learned about donors’ lives, including photos, paintings and vases, furniture cars, books boats. — everything tells you what donors are passionate about. I can remember one instance when I saw a picture of a prospective donor’s bike and we had an excellent conversation about how we both enjoyed biking and owned bikes.
In the second, ensure that the conversation is focused on the donor. Sometimes, they’ll question staff members about their lives and their families. While it is important to be professional, the work that needs to be accomplished requires the focus and attention is most important to the donors.
Thirdly, ensure that you ask questions that are relevant and pay attention. To be able to feel empathy, you have to be familiar with the people who give. Asking questions regarding how they met and what they enjoyed about their college experiences, and which alumni do they remain in contact with (very important to give back at reunions) and the other family members who went to their college or university, etc. These questions can give you a greater understanding of what could make them want to give. (Be sure to fill out the contact form as soon as you can so you can are able to record as much information as you can in order to work with donors.)
Fourth, you should accept whatever they give you generously. Coffee, tea, muffins, etc. Even if you don’t like the items on offer but you must be gracious even if you only enjoy a few bites or sips. Sometimes, the people who donated the money have thought about your visit and planned for these desserts, so it is important to appreciate and thank these treats. If you’re eating out, the majority of the donors will offer to cover the bill, and ought to be allowed to do this and acknowledged.
Fifth Always make it simple for the donors to say “yes.” If you’re hesitant in your solicitation, it’s likely due to a valid reason – that you’re not sure that you’ll succeed. You must go with your intuition and if you believe that people need more time to respond, you must be considerate and offer it to them. If you’re not certain about the amount of donation you’re planning to offer you should give them some options to allow the donor to answer “yes”, and, obviously, difficult for them to accept “no.”
Keep connected. Some of my favorite memories are when I send Mother’s as well as Father’s Day cards to donors who are married couples with children who, as parents have lost all (and the majority) of their kids to this disease. Unimaginable. I am sure that the fact that I remember them in these lonely days will mean the world for them.
The power of empathy is in establishing a rapport with donors. It will allow donors to respond with “yes” and to be content that their donation opportunity was intended to meet their requirements.
Learn more about Development Consulting [http://www.melioragroup.com/] at the Meliora Group LLC.
Carol Wittmeyer, Ed.D.
Carol is the founder of Meliora Group LLC, a company that is dedicated to serving the needs of people who are passionate about philanthropy success. She has been actively involved in this field for many years with national customers that include foundations, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations.
Carol served as interim VP Carol was the Interim VP of Newman University, where she directed the $14.25 million campaign to create the library. She was the Associate Vice President in the field of university relations at Alfred University where she managed the New Millennium Campaign raising $82 million, which was $7 million more than the goals. She was VP of the College Relations department in Medaille College where she restructured the college’s staff and procedures in order to demonstrate the best methods. Annual giving, participation , and trustee membership grew.
For two years , she served as the President of the Raymond Family Business Institute, committed to supporting family business owners. Together with coworkers from Kauffman Foundation, London Business School, Babson College, and Kennesaw University, she coauthored projects for the 2003 Global Entrepreneur Monitor as well as in the 2003 American Family Business Survey.
As the acting dean of education in St. Bonaventure, she was in charge of external relations and academic programming.
As a board member for The Olean General Hospital, Montessori, YMCA and the Warner School of Education, Carol has been involved in her local community. She is the Resource Chair for the Genesee Valley Association of AFP.
Carol was presented with an award called the 40 under 40 Business Leader Award by Buffalo Business First in 2001.
Carol received her doctorate at The University of Rochester where she has created with a scholarship in memory of a classmate who died. The topic of her dissertation was the Decision-Making processes of Private College Trustees. She has been an academic fellow visiting Babson College as well as The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Rochester.