Donors and their motivations come in all shapes and sizes.  Understanding a donor’s needs and creating a partnership that matches those needs with something your non-profit can provide or a problem you can solve, leads to ideal philanthropy—where the donor is fulfilled and the non-profit advances its mission.  What could be better?

In fact, if you can’t genuinely achieve the above, it’s better to steward your prospect to a non-profit that is a better match for their needs and goals. 

Prospective major donors tend to be business or professional people, or some combination of both.  Some bring pre-conceived notions about “how things ought to be.”   While the prospect will and has every right to expect results, the wise donor also doesn’t overlay an American business model on philanthropy and assume they are one and the same, although there are similarities.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself and areas to focus on, as you build relationships one person at a time. 

1.  Is the prospect passionate about your mission?

Does the prospect have, or can you educate and motivate them to significant buy-in regarding your mission?  It’s obviously much easier to start with a prospect who has demonstrated a high-level of interest in your mission.  A charismatic CEO or other leader can also forge or bring relationships to the table based on the trust the prospect has in them—a trust that must be paramount and always placed above the gift.

2.  Is the prospect motivated by your vision?

Yes, agreement with the mission is the first step, but the vision for where you are heading is the key to grabbing the heart and involving the prospect in that vision.  Big visions, with realistic steps to accomplish that vision, can inspire big support.

3.  Is your project and your non-profit on a sustainable path?

Sophisticated donors are sophisticated investors and they want to know their gifts are part of something long-term.  Can you demonstrate the progression of your organization in terms of financial viability in achieving your mission?  Has income kept pace with your vision thus far and will increased income be needed to support the implementation of your vision? 

4.  Are your objectives measurable?

Can you show how you intend to measure your progress?  And, more importantly, discipline yourself to track those measurables and report back to your donors?  Of course it’s important to know how many people you fed or educated last year, but you can also demonstrate measurables in program efficiency and even your fund development efforts. 

5.  Is what you’re doing transformational?

Yes, it’s great to feed more people every year, but does your program lift those people out of the cycle of poverty and help prepare them for their own sustainability?  If you educate more students every year, can you show how those graduateshave impacted others?  Do you have stories to share of how you are changing lives? 

If you can find compatibility and buy-in with prospects in these key areas, your chances of success are much greater than they would be otherwise, and everyone benefits—your donors, your non-profit and, most importantly, the people you serve.

AuthorCraig Smith