How they do it on a dime
Illustrations: Sergio Ramirez
(page 2 of 3)
Keep them happy and coming back
The number of dollars spent by donors to see the YMCA built in Ketchum can be counted in the bricks bearing their names of course, but more importantly, in funding an eco-friendly facility with programs for the entire Valley to engage in.
So now that you have a donor, you have to keep him happy. Does that mean stroking his ego, romancing him, entertaining him? It is much deeper than that, Boettger says. Meaningful relationships require mutual interest and trust.
“A great deal is done in the community by like-minded people getting together and supporting a common cause,” she says. This suggests that a social element be developed around philanthropy that makes it a lot of fun, she adds.
But some donors become aggravated when the organization is spending money on parties and events. So, one donor might want a gala affair or his name in the newspaper, while another wants a tour of the project or programs or an update on the effort.
But whatever approach appeals to a donor, “there’s no substitution, in the long run, to forming a relationship with people and getting to know them,” Boettger adds.
Watson says, “Every donor has their own way of giving. Some will go to an event just to be going to the event. But it lets people know what the cause is; it’s a great social venue as well as a fundraiser. Some donors see it as a waste of time; they just want to see the money go straight to the cause.”
No matter the individual personality, donors don’t just write checks, they care, she adds.
“And we always give someone an opportunity to continue their passion. At the same time, we’re always looking for someone new,” she says. “Relationships are so important, you grow with them, their success, and want to continue that participation.”
Donors also want the organization to be transparent and to see that funds go where they’re supposed to, Watson adds.
Beahen Lipman concurs, saying donors absolutely want to see that their funds are being used wisely and as promised. Trust is key.
“That’s a big part of my job, that we are being fiscally responsible,” she adds.
“We do so much collaborating, partnerships . . . from a donor perspective, they like to see services are not being doubled, you’re not being wasteful or not delivering on what you say you’re going to do.”
Donors also want to have pride in the organization or the project, and to know they’re helping people and the community.
“I think it’s a big part of why donors were attracted to the Y, that everyone could belong and the programs we run,” Beahen Lipman said, adding the YMCA operates on an open-doors, income-based, sliding-fee scale.
Never forget the “thank you”
“The most important thing is to thank them (donors) as often as possible and as personally as possible,” Beahen Lipman says.
“With major donors, you knock on their door a couple of times a year, sit at their kitchen table and catch up. But it can be as simple as a phone call.”
Watson says, “You want to be thankful, and let them know that you know they are making a difference.”
Whether it’s a thank-you note, putting donors’ names in the newspaper, talking about it with them over dinner, having a private party or hosting a public event, the relationship needs to be ongoing, and noting your appreciation is part of that relationship, she explains.
Even in that all-important thank you process, it’s important to pay attention to the details, Boettger says. But spelling a name correctly, being timely and knowing whether the donor prefers e-mail or snail mail is just the start. Finding ways to help them experience the good things made possible by their support is even more crucial in keeping donors coming back. >>>