Marcy's Blog: Listen and the Gifts Will Come

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education report about giving to higher education shows an uptick across the board. There were unsurprising increases at the larger institutions (Harvard, Stanford), but more importantly, and more interestingly, increases at smaller, lesser known schools too.

At the end of the article, John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Higher Education (CASE), sums it up beautifully:

“The fact colleges and universities hung in there and maintained relationships with donors, who might not have been able to make major gifts at the time, has proven an important strategy, and institutions are reaping the benefits now that the economy is recovering.”

There’s a lesson here for fundraisers and leaders across the nonprofit sector: hang in there with your donors. Invest in your donors all the time; when they’re giving and when they’re not. Don’t cling so tightly to your budgets and your goals that you miss the reason you’re doing the work in the first place.

Find the touchpoints in your calendar when you can contact donors to share exciting news, or even brainstorm ideas. Think of donor relationships as friend relationships. Connecting with your donors will help you to sustain your organization and grow as a person in innumerable ways. Care for your donors, learn what they love and why. In the process, you’ll learn how your mission touches people in surprising ways, you’ll get ideas for newsletter articles, appeals and events, and you may learn of other prospective donors to contact.

Talking to your donors will build their trust and broaden your vision of what’s possible. Your donors can teach you more about your organization than most of your in-office meetings and planning documents. And they can help you shape your organization in new and exciting ways.