The Art of Listening: 4 Ways to Listen to Your Donors

mimi-thian-737626-unsplashFundraisers, we know that you’ve mastered (or are working on mastering) the art of the ask. You’ve been honing that pitch for major donors, repeat donors, new donors and lapsed donors, highlighting your big annual event, appeal or campaign. We all know how important the ask is. However, have you ever stopped to consider the flip-side; the art of the listen?

Holly Hall from Inside Philanthropy talked with fundraiser Ron Schiller, who said “One big (but constantly repeated) mistake is spending lots of time, effort and money focusing only on the organization’s needs, campaign goals and timeline, and then showcasing those needs in slick capital campaign brochures, videos, and other materials—before even talking with donors.”

This is a huge misstep for nonprofits, as donors are not motivated by campaign deadlines and, instead, are motivated by organizations whose needs match with their values. In fact, research has found that 78 percent of high-net-worth donors give according to their personal values, and only 6 percent give strictly in response to an organization’s ask.

Listening to your donors allows you to find out what their motivations are for giving, while also giving them the opportunity to feel like a partner rather than a source of money resulted from your carefully honed pitch. It’s important that you don’t just say what your needs as an organization are, but that you listen to your donors and find out why they are donating so you can meet your donors where they’re at.

Here’s what to listen for when talking with donors:

  • The causes that are important to them and that inspire them. Finding out if your mission resonates with them and matches with their passions and interests will let you know if they will be a consistent donor.
  • How they want to be remembered. Listening to find out if your donors want to make a lasting impact and have that impact be commemorated will give you some insight into whether or not a specific donor will be a repeat donor, major gift donor, etc.
  • Problems they want to see solved. Does the donor you’re talking to want to see change in their community? Their state? The world? Does your nonprofit have the same vision? Listen for the problems they see and want to fix.
  • Their personal values. Just by talking candidly with your donors, you’re likely to discover what their personal motivations and values are. If their personal values align with your nonprofit’s mission, you’re likely to have a donor for life!

So, next time you’re preparing to make an ask for a fundraiser, appeal or campaign, we recommend taking a step back and listening first – your donors will appreciate it!