What A “Logo Bag” Taught Me About Donor Engagement.

157906_187585961371380_1407222229_nJoanie will tell you – insist, profess, and swear – that she is only just learning the most basic things about raising money.  Joanie also raised more than $50,000 for the organization where she serves on the board last year.  How did this happen?  Yes, Joanie is way more humble about what she knows than she needs to be, but Joanie is also, innately, masterful at donor engagement… whether she knows to call it that or not.


Joanie carries her “Logo Bag” everywhere.  No, not a designer logo, Joanie carries her organization’s bag with their giant, easy to read logo on the front everywhere and she flashes it around – on the train, in line, at meetings.  And of course, she gets asked, “Oh, what’s that?”  Here’s where the important part comes in:  Joanie has a story – her own, easy-to-tell story about what her organization does and why she thinks that’s so important.  She doesn’t recite statistics; she doesn’t fumble for a business card with the FAQs she’s supposed to share on it.  She tells her story about why she got involved and why she invests.

Would you trust the friend who says, “I love this product; you should get one too…” and then recited a bunch of facts to you?  “This toothpaste makes my teeth 20% whiter than the leading brand!”  Geez, no.  That friend is a nut.  You trust the friend who says, “I really like my new toothpaste; it solved the pain I was having in my teeth.  You should try it…”

Joanie has options.  Once she tells her story (and it’s really a story, with characters and funny parts, emotional parts, personal reflections), she can pull out a bunch of options that we would call “deepening donor engagement and motivation”.   Joanie just calls it “options”:

“Come with me to see our program in action – we have a great program coming up on Friday.”  (Or, “Give me your card; I’ll email you with the best times to come see us in action!”)

“I’d love to bring our Executive Director (…or board chair… or program leader…) to tell you more.  Would you take a meeting?”

“Here – you can read this about us and the work we do.  And, would you also pass one along to someone else you know who might be interested in this?”

Joanie uses her team.  The culture on this board promotes each member having a personal fundraising goal that they raise WITH each other, not FOR the organization.  (Though, of course, it’s for the organization…)  Joanie is fearless about involving others in the act of donor engagement; she’s more successful because her Executive Director and Director of Development (and fellow board members) are all ready to go on meetings, get introduced, help her close these gifts.  So often, we’ll meet folks from great organizations who are struggling to get their board “activated in fundraising” but have set the tone where every board member (or volunteer) is on their own… “Here’s the tools, here’s the rules, go raise some money.”, but don’t really approach this as a team sport, where everyone has a role to play in developing passion in others or demonstrating the difference that giving makes.  And that – no surprise – is important!

Earlier last fall, Blackbaud published a study that focused on the modes of giving preferred by different donors.  Embedded in this study was quantitative confirmation that Joanie’s approach has been right all along (and could even take it on the road to the UK or Australia):

Top Three Reasons Cited by Donors (in the United States, the U.K. and Australia) Who Become Regular Contributors to A Favorite Organization:

  1. They achieved an improvement in their personal financial situation
  2. They find passion about an organization’s mission
  3. They gain access to information that proved the impact of their

Joanie can’t do much to change the fortune of others… but she does a lot to kindle passion and provide information (herself and through her team) on the impact that giving has on an organization.


  1. Think about how you are using your “promotional products”: use them to inspire specific action.  Do you treat your as “gifts”, that you gift in thanks for generosity?  That’s nice, but you know what?  I have enough mugs, stickers, magnets, whatever else you’ve got with your logo on it to last a lifetime and a half.  However, give me a mug – or one of Joanie’s “logo bag”s – and ask me to carry it where others will see it and talk about my involvement… now we’re getting somewhere.  A client recently asked everyone attending a gala to use the stack of note cards in the goody bag they were receiving on the way out the door to write to three people they knew who would have loved to have heard what they did at that event, that night.  And, they took the added step of dropping in some suggested language that could be used to write those cards…  Website traffic spiked from first time visitors.
  2. …which leads to… Don’t be afraid to prompt action.  Think about Facebook and the insidious “hey, your friend likes this product, service, page…”  or the unceasing  advertisements you see, all prompting you to take action.  This Christmas, Santa gave me a gift to DonorsChoose and when I helped Mrs. Hranzanek get e-readers for her Kindergarten, DonorsChoose prompted me to share that on my own Facebook page.  THEN, they sent me an email I could forward to others.  THEN, Mrs. Hranzanek sent me a personal (two lines!) thank you note… and prompted me to post this to Facebook and/or forward it to my friends via email.
  3. … and then… Redefine engagement.  Engagement isn’t board service (though board service had better be engaging.)  Engagement isn’t volunteering in a formal way (necessarily).  Engagement needs to be a lot of different things… Joanie’s “options”, but all of them needed and all resulting making a difference.  Sometimes it’s signing a petition… sometimes it’s making snowflakes to decorate school hallways as kids in Newtown, CT return to class… sometimes it’s judging a competition of young entrepreneurs… sometimes it’s just asking someone to join you in giving too.

Having that kind of relationship with an organization keeps donors happy and giving…

2 thoughts on “What A “Logo Bag” Taught Me About Donor Engagement.

  1. Linda – so glad you loved it… That makes my day. Do let us know how you put some of these ideas to work for you!

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