Ten Things Great Relationship Builders Do

Our goal is inspired, joyful, generous investments by our donors. We want them to be “all in.” Ambassadors, volunteers, providers of expertise and wisdom, networkers and connectors and of course stretch financial givers and fundraisers on our behalf.

To get there, we build relationships that are strong, life-long, productive for the organization and meaningful for the donors.

Here are ten things great relationship builders do:

1. Strengthen and use your emotional intelligence –
Emotional intelligence consists of our ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. It is critical for effective fundraising relationship building. In fact, it is critical for managing others and having strong and happy home and work relationships. What’s your EIQ? What steps are you taking to nurture and strengthen this essential competency?

2. Foster strategic conversations about mission, vision, and values
Our ability to ask strategic questions about attitudes, values, and feelings is more important than new information chitchat. We need to understand philanthropic motivations, passions, and interests. Who makes the decisions and how. How best to engage and communicate with our donors. Just as important, is to engage them in conversations about our mission, vision and values. We want them to TELL US about the impact we are having in the community, why our vision is the right one for the people and causes we serve, why we matter. Click here for our latest list of strategic questions.

3. Be thoughtful, intentional and strategic
People often ask me if our work is manipulative. Are we tricking people, pretending to care about them just to get their money? Yikes. No. Intentionality is respectful of both the organization that pays you and of the donors’ time. We are not in the friend-raising business. None of us should be. Not alumni relations or engagement specialists, or event planners. We are not developing friends; we are nurturing productive, meaningful and satisfying relationships. What are you trying to accomplish with this contact? How will you achieve it? That’s the job. It is a wonderful, noble profession. And an honor and privilege as a volunteer.

4. Be donor-centric by paying attention to both the little as well as the big things -Yes, every conversation and experience should be strategic and intentional with clear and measurable goals but we also need to remember the little things. Birthdays, anniversaries, favorite flowers, names of pets, children and grandchildren. Get that information into the database along with the big things. Capacity, inclination, giving readiness, engagement and stewardship preferences and so forth. And think like a donor. See your organization though donors’ eyes. Not through your silos, turf and needs.

5. Engage donors and potential donors and volunteers in meaningful and productive work
We know engagement leads to increased giving of time, treasure and talent. All the research supports this. I hate the expression, “We want our donors to feel engaged. No. We want them to be engaged. Engagement is two-way, it taps into personal capital (human, intellectual, network and financial), it has a think, feel and do component, it’s experiential, and mission infused. No one wants to be wanted only for his or her contacts and money. Do you have a suite of engagement opportunities that meet these criteria? Drop us a line if you want a list of potential engagement opportunities for your type of organization. mail@theosbornegroup.com

6. Steward all of the donors’ personal capital in tailored ways that demonstrate IMPACT
People give their time, energy, expertise and money because they want to make a difference. Stewardship includes thank you and recognition. But more importantly, it focuses on demonstrating IMPACT. Three, six, nine months after an investment and BEFORE the next solicitation or volunteer request, demonstrate the difference I made. Thank you is not enough. You lose points when you don’t say thank you. It is expected. What inspires greater investment is when you engage me, share with me, the difference I’ve made. You promised I would save or change a life. Now show me!

7. Inspire
Don’t offer donors a shopping list of giving and naming opportunities. Share the societal problems you are solving, the lives and conditions you are saving and changing. Lead with mission and vision. Who cares about your campaign goals, or your desire to be best in your market? Everyone, from the security guard to the admin to the mission staff to board of directors – everyone, has to be able to tell the story in a compelling and authentic manner. Work in this one! It is so important.

8. Think big 
“She won’t join our board. We’re small potatoes. Plus we’re a working board. Let’s just ask her to lend her name.” “Please join our board. I promise. You won’t have to do much.” “He doesn’t have the time to give. He’s too busy.” “We can’t compete with the big organizations. No sense in asking.” Turn around. Look at all the people standing behind you who are counting on you to achieve the mission, vision and work of the organization. They deserve the best board, the biggest inspiring ideas, and the most enthusiasm. Don’t let them down.

9. Believe and give
Work for, volunteer for organizations you care about deeply. Know the story. Meet the people you are helping. Have personal stories. Understand the cause. Care deeply, passionately. Be a generous investor. Generosity is not about wealth, it is about stretching, giving with a full heart, doing the very best you can.

10. Enjoy
Your energy and enthusiasm is catching!

A Case for the Fundamentals

About a year ago, I was complaining to my dad that my shoe laces kept coming untied. He told me, as unpatronizingly as possible, that it was because I wasn’t tying them right. You heard me, I wasn’t tying them right…

This got me thinking, how did this happen?shoe laces Did I learn incorrectly? Or, was I taught correctly and over the years my technique got sloppy? Did I start taking shortcuts? Whatever it was, something I considered to be so fundamental and automatic, I was doing wrong, and it was causing me a great deal of irritation.

How many other things is this true for, particularly when we think about the way we run our fund development operations. There are basics that we all learn at some point. These elements seem so fundamental that it almost seems silly asking about them, but over the years, I have seen a number of organizations that don’t have these things in place.
I know that we all want to talk about the latest trends and emerging strategies, but I’ve decided, in this post, to channel your middle school Phys Ed teacher and focus on the fundamentals.

I get it, it feels like a lot of work to stop what you’re doing and work on these things. Your days are busy, your to-do list is long enough. But how much time are you wasting by not having these fundamentals in place? How many missteps are you making? How can you know that you’re optimizing your return on investment or prioritizing your activities effectively? How much time did I waste stopping to retie my shoes? And, who knows what might have tripped me up while they were untied.

So, to help make sure you’re on track for success, here are five key fundamentals to make sure you have in place. Hopefully, you’ll be able to check off each item with confidence, but if you’re missing any of these elements or they are in need of updating, I encourage you to make their development a priority:

  • Vision for the Future: Your big, bold vision expresses what will be different in the world because your organization exists. Everyone in your organization should be able to articulate and share it with passion and conviction. Without a compelling vision you lack the inspiration required to motivate your investors to make transformational gifts.
  • Long-Range Strategic Plan: This plan maps out the next three to five years and how you will achieve your big, bold vision. Every organizations has things they would like to change, in their operations, systems and culture. But, change doesn’t happen just because we want it to, it happens through being intentional and strategic in our actions and your long-range strategic plan ensures that.
  • Annual Fund Development Plan: Your annual operating plan includes specific, actionable goals and objectives with clearly defined roles and deadlines. A strong plan is as critical to guiding your organization in focusing on the most critical strategies as it is in helping to inform decisions about what you won’t do. Make sure that once the plan has been developed you implement strategies for continually checking on progress and make course corrections.
  • Table of Gifts: Probably the key fundamental that is missing the most from development shops, the table of gifts is a powerful management tool. Imagine always knowing exactly how much you have raised to date, how much remains to goal, which gifts have been closed and how many new prospects need to be identified. Now, stop imagining and go put together your table of gifts.
  • Case for Support: Can everyone in your organization – staff, board members, volunteers – effectively convey your organization’s case? Your case for support is a single document that contains information on who you are, why you exist, what you’re trying to accomplish and why a donor should care. A strong, well-written case for support provides the foundation for all of your donor materials and marketing collateral and provides consistency and effectiveness in your messaging.

These elements might not be flashy, they aren’t built on the latest technologies and they aren’t trending on Twitter. However, they are guaranteed to have a significant impact on your development success. So, don’t put them off any further, because otherwise you may end up looking as foolish as, say an adult that doesn’t know how to tie their shoes properly.