June 20, 2019

Do Your Donors Trust You? Good Donor Stewardship

Are you making a dirty ask?

Is your gratitude really a disguised donation request?

Let’s face it. You need revenue. So when a donor gives you a gift, especially a large one, it’s natural to return to the same place where you received success before. A dirty ask is anytime you ask for money when your agreement or contract was for something else. What can you do instead to build a trusting relationship?

Transcript of Do Your Donors Trust You? Good Donor Stewardship

I’ll have my gloves on because when I go gardening, I expect weeds, limbs, and dirt. Do your donors also expect dirt from you? Do they put on their gloves when you meet with them, and does this harm your relationship? Listen and find out how to change the expectation. Take off the gloves. Let’s get to work.

Do Your Donors Trust You? Good Donor Stewardship Transcript

I’m Karen Eber Davis, and let’s face some realities. Your organization needs nonprofit money, and from days of old, when hunters and gatherers went out and gathered game and berries and grapes in the wilderness, they returned year after year to the same place. Because that’s where the game and the berries were, likewise, it happens that when we find a donor who gives us the funding, we want to go back and ask again.

This is a given. However, our donors, perceiving that, put on their gloves, and you have resistance and a lack of trust. How can you change that?

What Does Donor Trust Look Like?

So let’s play this scenario out a little bit. You have a large gift you received, and you’d like to call the donor, and you call, and you say, “Hey, Miss Donor, thank you so much. I want to come and meet with you in person to thank you for the gift because it was so important to us and make sure you know all the good things that happen. And the donor, perhaps reluctantly, says, “Sure, come on over. Be here at Wednesday at 11:30. Great, looking forward to seeing you.

That’s what you say to the donor, but in your mind, you begin to think, how can I get another gift? And, if you at that meeting at 11:30, ask for another gift, you have made what I call a dirty ask. Your donors put on their gloves, anticipating this, and the conversation has a distance because the trust is gone.

A dirty ask is anytime you ask for funds when you have set up the pretense that you weren’t going to ask. You set up another contract with them. You violate them by coming in and asking for funding, So not to do this and to avoid this. Here’s what to do instead.


Gratitude does its own work. Trust gratitude. You express thanks to a donor. They understand that there are more needs that they haven’t solved at all but expressing gratitude shows them that they can do something and they can make an impact. So, if your meeting is about gratitude, fulfill that contract and let gratitude do its work.

Gift Impact

Secondly, when you work with donors, make sure they know how and what their gifts do, not only their gifts but if they’re acting as a model and letting you new use their name and not being an anonymous donor. Share that that in itself has a residual impact. People look up to them, and they also give because they’ve been led by them, so share donor impact makes sure donors recognize that you have seen and perceived who they are and their power and their ability to change the world.

Where You are Going From Here

Finally, because we want people to know that there are more opportunities, you can add a gratitude meeting at a thank-you meeting talk about what you see from here. Where you’ve come, looking back. How the gift has helped and where you’re going. This is not an ask, but this it’s sharing a piece of the vision that comes next. Because you have given this gift, we now really see that our next step is this. It is so helpful for you to have us gotten to this place that we now see what’s ahead.

Donors get it. They know you need more money, but they want you to trust them to respond what is good for them. So no more dirty asks. Make your intentions clear. Be trustworthy. Let your donors know that when you say a word or words, they can count on them, and the agenda that you set is the agenda that you’ve discussed.

Are you still listening? Go ahead and subscribe to this channel. There’s more stuff coming.

Need more help with donor stewardship? Karen is available for a mini-consult or more. Click here to email or here to set a time to chat.
Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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