5 Ways to Engage Donors

To Fundraise Means to Engage…You can’t just walk across a coffee shop and ask a girl you’ve never met to marry you.

If you go to dictionary.com and search for the word “Fundraise” this is what you will find.

See anything interesting, or out of the ordinary here? For me, the ONE word that lit up my computer screen is the word, “ENGAGE.”

To fundraise means to engage…If you ever want to increase giving to your organization to significant levels, it is crucial to have a relationship with your prospective donors before you can ever expect substantial gifts to be made.

Engaging donors is a lot like dating…Key components to developing a healthy relationship include Talking, Finding Common Interests, Spending Time, Showing Appreciation and Making an Investment.

See how these principles translate into engaging donors.


Have you ever had a salesman approach you and you immediately know all he is seeing in you is his next commission? No different with fundraisers. There comes a point that if all you are doing when you are around people is asking for something, they will begin to avoid you like a stinky fart (sorry I could have said “like the plague” or something, but how fun is that?).

The best way to make people feel real and important is to talk to them and show interest in WHO they are. Get them to talk about themselves. This is the thing we all LOVE to do the most…Tell stories about our kids, talk about something funny that happened the other day, give our opinion, etc.

This is how you connect.

Find Common Interests

When people begin to talk about themselves you gain insight into who they are, what they believe, their passions, challenges and much more. This translates into ways you can find commonalities between your organization and his or her interests.

Having something in common is the leading indicator to a successful relationship.

Spend Time

This seems obvious, right? You have to find ways to spend time…Go on dates. This is where events can be very good, but this should not be the only way you spend time. You should work to spend time with your donors face to face, via email, over the phone, etc…Send surveys out to past donors asking their opinion on matters relating to your organization, pick 52 donors and make sure to go have coffee at least once a week with a different donor each week, have invite-only appreciation dinners with very small groups of donors, etc…

Show Appreciation

Has your significant other ever said, “I just feel like you don’t appreciate all I do.” Well…

A simple “Thank You” can make the biggest difference in the world…Take your time to thank people for their support of your organization.

Send a thank you note, or better yet, make a quick 5-minute phone call. One phone call will increase the chance of a donor giving again, and more, by 20%. So 5 minutes can increase your odds and loyalty and larger gifts by 20%. Do the math on what an investment of 30 minutes a day making thank phone calls would do for you organization. That means you will, on average, speak to 5 donors a day increasing their loyalty and giving level. The results could be exponential.

Side note…These phone calls are where you ask them to go have coffee like I mentioned above. If a phone call can create good odds, imagine what that does to enhance loyalty and larger gifts.

Make an Investment

My Dad told me when I married my bride that successful marriages take work. Doesn’t anything that is important? You have to work at it. This means, DON’T BE LAZY! At a minimum, make small investments of your time daily to properly engage…Just do something.

So there you have it…Engaging donors is a lot like dating. Just as you can’t walk across a coffee shop and ask a woman to marry you, you can’t ask a total stranger to make a significant investment in your organization. You need to get to know them, let them know you and build a relationship that matter.

Now get out there and make something happen!

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