Can You Find The Donors on Your Membership List?

One of your donors makes a six-figure gift to another nonprofit. Can you use this information to further your mission, and help the donor and your community? By leveraging his nonprofit’s member benefits, one director of philanthropy designed a way to help generous donors achieve more of their goals.

When a Director of Development (we’ll call him Bob), started working at a particular museum, members were mailed tickets that came with their membership packages. To collect data on their usage, Bob changed this process. He asked members to collect their tickets at the front desk.

When a local social service nonprofit for children announced a six-figure donation, Bob studied the ticket data. He found that the donor was a museum member but didn’t use her tickets. Seeing an opportunity to help the donor achieve more of her goals, Bob contacted her.

Bob proposed that the museum provide her unused tickets to the children served by the other nonprofit. The delighted donor agreed. By helping the donor, Bob earned the opportunity to better understand the donor’s interests and explore how the museum might partner with her in the future.

Nonprofits often have pockets of overlooked value, such as unused member tickets. When you examine them, you can discover opportunities. By leveraging them, you can help your donors, community, and nonprofit.

If you have a membership program, consider collecting data like Bob did, and finding ways to support donor goals with unused membership benefits. If you lack memberships, adapt Bob’s approach to leverage overlooked value by:

1. Identifying Value. Start by identifying unused or underused resources. Expect to find some. Bob found unused membership benefits.

2. Exploring Who Might Benefit From It. Bob identified a way to help donors do more. Consider if the value might benefit:

  • Customers.
  • Donors.
  • Foundations and grant-giving entities, like clubs.
  • Business leaders.
  • Government agencies.

3. Select a Group and Obtain Good Information. To collect usage data, Bob changed where members collected their tickets. The change allowed him to find donors in the membership pool.

4. Try It. Design a pilot. This is the hardest step. Identify the next small steps to take to share value. Calendar when you will get them done. Bob contacted the donor to share his idea.

5. Repeat and institutionalize successes. Not every attempt you make to share value will be perceived as beneficial to your recipient. Learn from attempts that fail. Do more of what works. Over time, the mindset of looking for value to leverage will create new value and bring amazing dividends.

When a donor in your community makes a large gift to someone else; rejoice. It might be an opportunity to figure out how to leverage your resources to help the donor achieve more of his or her goals. Or you can use it to explore pockets of value you are not helping others to experience.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.