June 13, 2017

How to Help High Worth Donors Engage with New Staff

A man holding a pad scratching his head with a penThe Challenge: A new CEO or development director begins work and wants to connect with donors who loved the previous staff member. How can you renew and move these relationships forward?


1. Mindset
Recognize grief as healthy. Early in my career, I was introduced to the booklet, Running Through the Thistles. Although focused on leaving parish ministry, it teaches that healthy people grieve, that over time they form new relationships, and to honor the process. Your donors face a kind of mini-death. Build your relationships (as always) by focusing on their needs.


2. Do the Heavy Lifting. What do grieving people need? People to help do the heavy lifting. When it’s a death of family member, this often means doing the laundry and running errands. In organizations, it means carrying the relationships. Therefore, create a contact campaign to reach people individually with calls, emails, and notes. For instance, you set a goal to contact fifty donors in three months, seven times.


3. Master’s Degree
Use your mutual interest in your organization to build your foundation. Pretend you’re pursuing a Master’s Degree in your organization and its supporters. Besides the contacts above, reach out for lunch, coffee, or even a telephone interview to a special few. You may have tons of notes about a donor’s giving history and passions. Or, you may have nothing. No matter. You need fresh information. Ask for their help. Do not sell anything. Do not solicit a donation. Your purpose? To learn. Seek to be brought up to speed on how they see the organization. Gain an in-depth understanding of why your donors gave and their experiences. Uncover their advice about moving the mission forward.

Helping Donors Connect with New Staff

In short, what’s the best way to connect with old donors? Focus on creating community between you and your donors and donors with each other. Appreciate their needs, reach out at first more than you will over time, and do interviews. You will help your organization transition into an even better organization. Have a question about income growth? Pose it to Karen.

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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