A woman shaking hands with a new donor14 Ways to Start Donor Relationships in 10 Minutes or Less

Stand in front of a group of non-profit leaders, and start the sentence, “To create donors you must form…”

The voices will respond in unison, “Relationships.”

Doubtless, over the years, you, too, have been advised to form relationships with donors. While there is truth in this platitude, forming relationships is not enough. You have a relationship with the clerk at your local convenience store. You have a relationship with the neighbor who greets you with a grunt as he walks his dog when you leave for work in the morning.

You must not just form relationships. You must form relationships that inspire others to live the life they seek in ways that help your organization—a tall order. You must learn enough about others to discover if they have the means and passion for helping your organization. If they do, you want a relationship that inspires them. While one can’t usually create inspiring relationships in ten minutes or less, you can, by breaking relationship components, consistently take actions that create inspired relationships in ten minutes. Read on to learn how.

About You With Them

1.  Be available.

Arrive ten minutes early; stay ten minutes late. Your physical presence enhances relationships.

2.  Be the one greeting and starting the conversation.

Enough said.

3.  Prepare thoughtful questions.

If Tiffany is likely to be at the annual meeting, review your Tiffany notes. What query can you make to move your conversation with him beyond the weather after some small talk?

4.  Be present.

Listen to the words. Observe faces and gestures. Hear their tone. Be fully present with individuals for five minutes with the sole agenda of being present.

5.  Learn about them.

Care about their issues and interests. If they are from China or Poughkeepsie, pull out a map and locate their hometown. Read a Wiki article about a hobby. I met a fern enthusiast. I learned via Google that a fern craze in the Victorian era probably explains why both our grandmothers displayed ferns prominently in their foyers.

6.  Seek one-to-one conversations, the building blocks of relationships.

When our children were small, we worked hard to help them recognize that they had two parents with two experiences and two different viewpoints. If you have never had a ten-minute conversation with an individual donor, you have an opportunity to form a deeper relationship. Learn their unique story; why are they involved with the organization. What do they believe you do best? For those you know, find out who or what inspires them. Then, be inspirational.

Just You

7. Cultivate your love for your organization.

Just as the earth from space is lovely, the picture fades when you zoom into a slum. Close up. It’s easy to become jaded. Even as you work to fix your organization’s flaws, step back for ten minutes to review your heart-warming successes.

8. Grow your people skills, especially dialog.

Suggested resources include Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations. Read or listen to a chapter or another source for ten minutes over several days. In between, digest and practice the materials.

9. Deal with the residue of past rejections to be ready to risk again.

Move on or move individuals to the back-burner who pass on opportunities to support you. Feel the fear of future rejections. Ten minutes of writing down fears and exploring them will help you to pop many of these fears like soap bubbles. End your session by reminding yourself of this truth: you have countless prospects. You seek those who believe, like you, that what you offer is worthy of investment.

10. Be trustworthy.

If you make a promise, you have an obligation to fulfill it whether the donor will ever know it or not. If you promised a tour to someone you find out is unlikely to be a donor, offer to fulfill your promise. This extends to your commitment to “small things.” Who have you promised to get back to? Does your voice mail recording promise a return call? Do you consistently fulfill it? Take ten to return the calls or change your message.

11. Don’t be a doormat; push back as needed.

Grow your assertiveness skills. Your observation skills tell you that Joanne doesn’t want to be challenged. Growing assertiveness skills will help you challenge her, for her sake, to find out how to achieve her dreams. How about ten minutes? Plan a way to share your reluctance to push and why you must with her.

12. Know the value your organization offers.

If someone invests a dollar, what is the return? If you are unsure, ask this at a meeting. Explore in ten-minute increments until you have a firm answer.

13. Provide more love after the check than before.

Jerry Panas writes that the cost of existing donors is one-fifth of the cost of recruiting new ones. Invest ten to send a quick email or handwritten note saying, “thank you,” or, “I was thinking of you.”

14. Don’t want money.

No matter how you hide it, “want money” comes through. Take ten minutes to grow a relationship now by interacting with a donor without it being about your money needs.

Other Resources

Waiting for Super Donor. What Your Board Needs to Know About Individual Donations.

Identifying New Supporters:  A Helpful Tool

Empower Your Leadership: 30 Activities for Nonprofit CEO Growth

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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