Now that spring is here, I wanted to clean out my garage.
At the same time, I’ve been working on teaching my ten-year-old son the importance of helping out around the house. Fortunately, I was able to use a tactic I’ve learned from teaching board members to conduct donor visits and accomplished both at the same time!
If you’ve ever tried to get a ten-year-old child to do anything, you know that it can be quite a challenge! So, instead of telling my son what to do and how to do it, I asked him a question:
Ethan, can you help me figure out how to get the garage clean for summer?
The difference was AMAZING.
Instead of whining and complaining about having to clean the garage, Ethan took charge! He told me what to do and how to get it done. Two hours later, when I was ready to take a break, he stayed motivated — and helped ME stay motivated, too, until we finished — all because he felt ownership in the project.
The result? A proud, accomplished son. A happy Mom. And a clean garage.
Ten-year-old kids aren’t the only ones who want to feel like a respected part of a team. Everyone likes to be heard, especially when you’re asking for something from them, which is exactly why donor advice visits are so important!
Preparing You and Your Board for Donor Visits
A few quick tips and examples to prepare you and your board members for donor visits:
- Match the issue/topic at hand to the donor’s interest and area of expertise. If one of your donors is an architect, for example, ask them to look over any plans you come up with for renovating your facility or building a new one. More generally, as an active member of the community, you can ask most donors how your organization is perceived in the community, and what you can do to improve your reputation/brand/marketing/programs, etc.
- Provide a way for the donor to take leadership of a project. You could ask the donor how they would approach the challenge — and if they come up with a great plan, ask them to help implement it.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for advice that’s separate from an immediate fundraising goal. A donor who’s a CPA may well be eager to share information on the best bookkeeping software for your nonprofit. They may or may not offer to help pay for the software right now, but they will be impressed that you asked. And that favorable impression often pays off in larger gifts down the road.
Open-Ended Questions are Best
Encourage board members to use open-ended questions to get your donor talking.
An example of a “closed question is:
Do you like our programs?
This type of question will get you a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer, and no more — that’s a “closed” question.
What do you like most/least about our programs and why?
On the other hand, this type of question allows the donor to provide their opinion. It’s an open-ended question.
Your goal is to leave donors feeling heard, valued, and excited to be making a measurable, positive change to your mission.
The key is to provide donors with a sense of ownership.
Much like my son and the garage, you want to provide your donors every reasonable opportunity to create a sense of ownership in your organization and your work. You won’t just see a difference in your fundraising results — you’ll also receive some great ideas that will help your entire nonprofit be more effective!
This Week’s Task
Create a list of at least five open-ended questions to ask on donor visits. The topics could be related to your programs, to expansion plans, or even to better ways of taking care of your nonprofit’s day to day processes. Share this list of open-ended questions with your board members.
Then, look through your list of major donors. Do any of them have expertise that could help? Schedule time to call and meet with one of them every week or so to ask for some advice. This will get them thoroughly invested in the success of your nonprofit.
So what should you do when you get advice you DON’T want? Stay tuned for Donor Advice Visits (Part 2).
Have you ever received a piece of extraordinary advice from a donor? Share your story in the comments.
This post is part of my Year of the Fundraising Board series. Check out the entire series to learn how to create a stronger, smarter, and super motivated nonprofit board.