Fundraising can be hard. It’s easier when you have a relationship: Takeaways from the “Relational marketing and fundraising” GAOC discussion


My current relationship with my bank is completely transactional. When I need cash, I pay the ATM a visit. Every now and then, I add a quick deposit to my stop – but usually I rely on electronic transfers. Without a doubt, today’s online and mobile technology has made it possible for me to completely sidestep physical interaction with my bank – let alone get to know a personal banker!

But I wonder how much better my banking experience would be if I went beyond the technology and focused on getting to know the people?  I bet those relationships would come in handy if an issue or opportunity arises that needs more than an impersonal, transactional response.

As fundraising professionals, we must be intentional about building relationships with our organizations’ current and prospective donors, and not treating them as ATMs. In our hearts and minds, we all know that – yet, sometimes the ease of automaticity gets the best (or worst) of us. Who among us is not guilty of sending out a general donation request without any personalization? Or failing to get in touch with a major donor until it’s time to submit a formal report or make another request? Why does this happen? – Well, as one long-time fundraiser shared at Project Partners’ April 11th Good Advice Over Coffee (GAOC) gathering on the topic of Relational Marketing and Fundraising, “It’s harder to ask for support than it looks.” She then added, “It’s easier if you have a relationship.”

Several GAOC attendees shared how they begin and strengthen relationships with their organizations’ donors. The discussion included details on monthly engagements hosted by one organization to enable donors to experience unique aspects of its mission; an intentional shift in conversations that one fundraiser has with prospective supporters from WHAT her organization does to WHY; and emphasis from the founder of a new nonprofit on asking donors and donor prospects for advice, and then acting on that advice. In other words, person-to-person interactions, not drive-by ATM requests.

“We aim to remove obstacles to connection,” said one nonprofit professional who works with tens of 501(c) (3) organizations to raise funds through employer-based giving campaigns. Let’s get out from behind digital screens and initiate more meaningful interactions. Yes, it will take more time. And it’s not always easy. Yet, you and your organization will experience deeper relationships with donors and prospects when you truly and authentically get to know them and allow them to get to know you. 

Want some good advice over coffee?  Our next topic is donor-centric communications.  Please join us!