Your Donor’s End Goal Isn’t A Donation—Here’s What That Means For You

In a recent guest post, Kaitlin from Emma* shared four steps nonprofits can take to tell their stories through email. One of those steps included focusing on your “why,” the reason you’re doing what you do. As she explains in the post, if you focus on your why and channel your enthusiasm and heart into your communication, the “why” will help you get what you want.

Fundraisers want a donation. But what does your donor want? You’re focused on their donation, but they may be focused on something else entirely.

Here’s what Kaitlin wrote:

“Instead of thinking of the people on your list as potential or past donors, remember that they’re real humans seeking connection. Their end goal isn’t a donation, so you can’t expect them to arrive at that decision without first connecting with them on a human level and meeting them where they are.”

It also relates to something that Meredith from Integrus Leadership wrote about in this post on why you might be dreading fundraising:

“Donors are not merely a means to an end (more money); they are people with stories and life experiences. They are people with joys and sorrows. They are people looking to make a difference. Sometimes, they are people looking for a place to belong. In short, they are people, and they matter.”

So, if their end goal isn’t a donation, what is it? And how does that change how you talk to them? You want to matter to your donors, and your donors want to matter to you. By figuring out what motivates them to give and what they want out of their relationship with your organization, you’ll be a more effective fundraiser and communicator. You’ll also build more meaningful relationships.

How can you find out what matters to your donors? Here are two recommendations:

  • Talk to your fundraising team. Do they have insights into why your donors are making their donations? If not, how can you help them set up a system or practice where they can find out that information?
  • Ask your donors. Sometimes it’s best to go straight to the source! You can put together a short survey and email it to your donors asking them to briefly explain why they made a donation to your organization. You can also set up calls with recurring donors or donors who made a large gift to see if there are differences in how they approached their giving.
  • Another great way to establish trust with your donor is to ask what they expect from you out of this relationship. You can assume that, at the bare minimum, they expect their money to support your mission. But what else do they expect? Do they want regular updates from you? Do they want to see photos of your mission at work or data points that show how effective it is? Do they want to hear from the people you serve or the people on your team? Once you know what their expectations are, you can start to meet (and exceed) them.

    The more your donors trust you, the more willing they’ll be to support you in the future and maybe even rally their friends and peers around your cause. So stop looking at them as numbers in a spreadsheet or as people who exist only to give you money. Once you do, you’ll be in a much better position to raise more funds and do more good in the world.

    *indicates the organization is an integration partner