Switching Friendships: How to Help High Worth Donors Engage with New Staff

Helping donors who loved the last staff member move on The 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.

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