Wisdom Wednesdays: Donor Relations is About Management and Moving

by Matthew Leighty

Some people don’t like the term “Moves Management.”  I first learned this during my early days of fundraising when I attended the course, “Principles and Techniques,” at The Fundraising School.   In fact, you won’t find that term referenced in their entire 772 page study guide.  Recently, Leslie Allen talked about the phrase controversy in her blog post, “Who’s Movin’ Who? Renaming Moves Management.”  No matter what you choose to name it (or don’t name it), maintaining proper relationships with your donors is vital in order to fund your organization and further your mission.

So what exactly are we talking about?  It’s the systematic process of developing relationships with your donors that moves them closer to your organization, with the hope of that person making a lifetime gift.  That in mind, let’s look at the five ways we can assure this process happens effectively.  Oh, and please note — these points are “ALDE!”-themed.

1.  A – Access donor records: In today’s age, you need to have a dependable electronic program that allows you to properly track the information about your donors in a sophisticated and ethical way.

This is the first and most important key.  I’ve witnessed transitions to Banner and Raiser’s Edge.  I consider donor records software the most valuable tool I use.  Yes, even more important than my iPhone.  There are many donor management applications — everything from free to super expensive.  The key is to find the right one for you and your organization.  Most importantly, you need to know how to use it.  If you and your fundraising department can’t easily access donor information, you’re throwing away time and money.

2.  L – Lead the management process: You need to identify who is best able to manage the relationship with your top donors.

This is different than who’s going to introduce you to the donors, who’s going to ask for the actual gift and who’s going to thank them for the gift.  This is the person that makes sure each of those steps happen.  Is that you?  Is that someone else in your fundraising department?  You need someone who’s taking the lead on how to properly move the donor from discovery/introduction to cultivation to asking/solicitation to stewardship.  Otherwise, it won’t get done.

3.  D – Diversify your communication: You want to identify the best way to connect with your donors.

It’s amazing the different interests our donors have.  We could have three different people visit a donor and everyone walks away with a different conversation.  In the same way, I’ve learned many and various ways my donors like to connect.  Today, I’ve found more and more donors are beginning to use technology like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Sure, phone is still great, and I’ll always conduct personal visits.  But now, I have donors that will be just as likely to text as to leave a message on my voicemail.  You might use the phone to arrange a visit, but in between, you can also email them a link to an article and share a recent video that was produced.  We need to adapt and be comfortable with diverse forms of communication or we’ll lose out.

4.  E – Ease up on the procedures: It needs to feel natural.  If your system is so systematic that donors don’t receive a personal connection from your organization, they’re not just missing out, but so will you.

In last week’s Wisdom Wednesday blog post, Gretchen Jameson shares with us what is important: “When we focus on story, we become more purposeful and focused in our communications.  When we focus on story, we operate from a position of why, not what.  We spark relationships by engaging people with the larger context of why we do what we do in the way we do it.”  This is a reminder that we can’t focus strictly on procedure.  If our actions become too mechanical, donors will feel like things being managed and not shareholders being engaged.

5.  ! – Excitement about your mission: If you don’t have passion for your cause, that’s going to come across to your donors.

Let’s please make an agreement right now.  Please, please, please, pretty please, love your organization.  If you can’t share with people why you’re changing the world, if you can’t express it in a way that makes people understand your passion for what you do, you’re doing your organization and thus your mission a disservice.  ALDE is full of people that love what they do.  This is seen through the incredible work that’s happening every day among our respective institutions.  Take what you do very seriously, but don’t forget to have fun along the way — because you are changing the world.

In Fundraising Principles and Practice, by Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, and Associates, we learn the number one reason people stopped giving to an organization: “They no longer felt personally connected.”  When we properly manage donor relationships people will respond with their love and support.


Sargent, Shang, and Associates.  Fundraising Principles and Practice.  San Francisco, CA: Jon Wiles & Sons, Inc., 2010.
(Sargeant is one of our keynote speakers for the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference.)

Matthew Leighty is an Advancement Officer at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  He is also the Chairperson of the ALDE 2013 International Educational Conference, to be held February 8-11 in Indianapolis.


2 thoughts on “Wisdom Wednesdays: Donor Relations is About Management and Moving

  1. Great article and well written. These are tips that we all should know as Fundraisers but have to be reminded of from time to time. The bottom line, step away from your desk and get a little face time, I know that I need to do more!

    • Thanks for your comments. You arrived at a proper conclusion. One of the biggest challenges we face is being stuck in our office and not out visiting donors. I find when I’m getting bogged down by all the “work”, visiting donors re-energizes me. They share in our passions. If I have a challenge, I try to think of a donor who might help. By the way, it’s also a great way to get your foot in the door with, that donor, who’s resistant to meet because they’re worried you’ll just ask for money.

      Blessings on your fundraising efforts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s