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Are You Really Listening to Your Donors?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8:56 AM | Denise Downing (Administrator)

Written by: Patrick Manion, MBA

Towards the end of 2018 I had some wonderful visits with members of our Legacy Society. I wanted to share some observations and make some recommendations.

On a lunch visit at a diner, I met with a donor who was having a birthday the next day. They were my first closed gift, and this was our 4th visit in four years. I recalled where we met previously, and I remembered their Thanksgiving tradition. The visit was just before Thanksgiving. I did so without combing over my notes, or trying to memorize information. When you are genuine and sincere, you will remember what matters. I posed the question, "Am I a salesman?" After a minute or so of laughter, we compared notes on just how annoying a salesperson can be. We talked about robocalls, junk mail, and just the trickery surrounding most sales calls. This is why I do not approach my job as if I am in sales. My donors do not think of me as a salesman, so why would I frame myself as one?

On another lunch visit, my donor insisted in giving me all sorts of "souvenirs" she receives from other nonprofits she supports. Luggage tags, pens, and other stuff. Nice to know who else she supports. At the same time, she was complaining about a gift officer and how they had very little or no time for her. It seemed to me that the gift officer was trying to just make their numbers and not being considerate of her time, her age, her interests, etc. She does not want to talk much about our mission, she tells me, I gave money for research. That means, she supports and respects the work we do in the particular disease area she supports. Do I need to update her further? Do I need to listen to her aches and pains, and what sort of coleslaw she likes? Our next visit will be at a library in her neighborhood to watch a film. I wonder if the gift officer just trying to make their numbers was invited to a matinee? Or did she instruct her banker to make changes to her plans and exclude that charity?

In these two examples, if you have been in the business for a while, you are probably wondering what point I am trying to make? These observations are nothing new. If you are pretty new to Planned Giving, you are probably wondering why I do not consider myself a salesman. Of late I have noticed a lot of new thinking in the realm of legacy giving. A lot of scientific research, a lot of big data. What are you doing most of your day, or night for that matter? Are you analyzing big data and crunching numbers? Are you questioning what the subject line should be in an email? Are you trying to figure out your best social media strategy? I guarantee you that your donors are not interested in any of the above. They are probably waiting to hear from you, or someone from your institution related to what matters to them. Who is my new scholarship recipient? How are the field staff in Rwanda doing? How was your trip to Ireland? Did you try that new restaurant I recommended after our visit?

As we move further and further away from our donors and what matters most to them, are they moving further and further away from us?



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