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Take a Journey with your Donors

First published here in July 2022 by Amy Van Bergen.

As a nonprofit leader, I always understood that securing donations was both an art and a science. It wasn’t until recently, a few years into my retirement, that I truly understood the art and science of giving from the donor’s perspective.

You see, I just decided to make a 6-figure gift to a charity and transferred those funds this week. I am by no means a gazillionaire, so definitely this was a stretch gift for me.

While I am excited about what will happen over the next few years about the impact of this gift, I want to share with whom I did NOT give my gift:

· I did not gift it to my local church where I am an active volunteer…even though I have asked several times in the past year what the biggest monetary needs are. I have also eyed their beautiful historic, unused chapel for the past four years wondering if there is a plan in place to restore and open its doors again [hint: there is not, at least not that I am aware of…and again, I have asked several times.] If you check out the photo accompanying this blog post, I appear to have a "thing" for historic and unused buildings!

· I did not gift to the local nonprofit hospital system… that I have been engaged in talks with for the past seven years about what it would take to open an adult Down syndrome clinic, something that is near and dear to my heart and would have a huge and immediate impact for my son Wils who happens to have Down syndrome and who lives within two miles of that hospital. I continue to have these conversations, but I am the one pursuing them, not the other way around.

· I did not gift it to any of the local or national nonprofits in which I have served in a leadership role, either as senior staff or as a board member.

Now, like any supportive and loyal board member, I do regularly give to all of those nonprofit entities, but I can only think of one (out of maybe 10?) that has taken me on a journey as a potential major donor, where the nonprofit regularly connects with me.

HOW TO DO IT RIGHT: This nonprofit doesn’t simply ask me for money once or twice a year. I receive updates on what they are actually doing regularly and how the money is making an impact. I receive personal and frequent thank you notes and phone calls… and those points of contact come from multiple people at the nonprofit—the CEO, the board president, staff or fellow board members as well as notes from the people that are served by the nonprofit.

That one nonprofit—out of many to whom I feel most connected—will probably receive another 5- or 6-figure gift from me when: a) the timing is right for me and b) when the project or purpose speaks to my heart. Alas, the others probably will not, because they haven’t taken the time to invest in the art and science of donor stewardship, even though I feel strongly about their missions.

In the meantime, if you are a nonprofit leader (paid or volunteer), why don’t you take the time to call, text or write a note to one of your donors today, just to let them know you are thinking of them and that they are appreciated? Better yet, invest in the science of strategically touching base with your donors at all levels on a regular basis. I promise, it will pay off one day. Maybe with me.

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1 Comment

Carolyn VanBergen
Carolyn VanBergen
Jul 31, 2022

Well said. Sometimes we wonder what we can do to help our communities; this is something that will make a real difference.

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