I recently had a conversation with someone who said, in a ‘woe is me’ way, that they can’t cook. “Not a bit.”
It struck me that this is such an odd thing to say. Anybody can cook. All you have to do is learn a few basic skills, have a few basic pieces of equipment, and directions to follow (a recipe). To me, it’s like saying, “Alas, I never learned to clean.” I WISH! 🙂
How about this for taking it to the extreme:
“I can’t walk.”
“Why!? Were you in an accident? Were you born that way?”
“No, I tried a few times when I was little. I just couldn’t do it. I kept falling and I hit my head once. It was really embarrassing. I decided then that I just can’t walk. It doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s not my gifting. So people have to pick me up and carry me places. It’s inconvenient, but walking is not my passion. It’s not where I thrive.”
Many people view donor relations in this same way. They tried it, but they’re just not comfortable making those calls. They’re too shy to walk across the room and extend their hand to a stranger. It’s not their natural gifting to get to know people in a deeper-than-surface level. The few attempts they’ve made were embarrassing. Just the thought of it is exhausting. Instead, they reason, they are a planner; they love executing events. OR They like working with the staff; They’re good at that and it energizes them.
Let’s look at it this way instead. Do you love making sure there is food in the house? Do you feel energized by helping your kids with their homework and projects every single night? Do you feel a giftedness in giving your kids baths and getting them to bed? Are you passionate about tending to your spouse or parent when he/she gets sick? Do you look forward to calling your mom every week?
Let’s assume the answer to at least one of the questions above is a no. Love is often a discipline, an action that inconveniences us and exhausts us. We make ourselves do things we know are best for our family and friends because, sometimes, the most loving thing we can do is the thing that is hardest.
So let’s bring it back around to donor relations (although I suspect you already get the point). Keeping up, checking in, developing relationships with donors and supporters is a discipline you take on out of love for your ministry, your clients, and even for your donors. Here are some practical steps to take to make this love a more intentional part of every week.
- Develop some guidelines for when and how often you contact your donors/supporters.
- Make sure you have an easily functioning database that allows you to record all the personal information you learn about your donor/supporter. Unless you have an amazing memory or a very small donor pool, you can’t possibly remember it all without writing it down.
- Record every interaction you or your staff have with that person.
- Set up reminders in your database for when you’re going to follow up with each donor/supporter.
- Schedule times during each week or day to follow up on your donors/supporters. Write it on your calendar. Guard that time.
Read some books but make sure they’re the right ones. Aggressive sales tactics can do more damage than good. I recommend a series of books called Raising More Money by Terry Axelrod.The first book is subtitled, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Lifelong Donors. You can buy used copies fairly cheap.
You are going to make mistakes. After all, you’re learning to walk! But if you are sincere and trying to learn, people will usually look past your rookie mistakes. If not, ask for forgiveness and trudge on…. It’ll get easier and you might be surprised! You might love it!