For a donor, the decision to give their largest gift is not one taken lightly. Just like there is a natural progression within a relationship that leads to engagement, there are specific phases to making important decisions around giving.
We wouldn’t walk up to a stranger at a cocktail party and immediately propose marriage – at least most of us wouldn’t! Yet, we often see organizations move too quickly from introducing themselves directly to the ask without a carefully thought-out plan. In order to lead a donor towards a quality decision that will culminate with a major gift, you need to prepare for each aspect of the donor experience. We recommend designing your solicitations around the following 5 phases:
STEP #1: INFORMATION
This is the foundation. The information stage is when the donor learns the basic details of your organization: who you are, your mission, your impact, etc. We often equate this to the “head” or “brain” knowledge. When creating your donor experience, this phase may happen organically (via volunteering or attending an event), or in a more deliberate way (meeting over coffee). Identify the key characters in your story (who introduces the organization to your donor) and the settings where they learn about your organization.
STEP #2: CULTIVATION
Next, we move to the “heart” side of the appeal. After getting to know your organization, it’s critical to build a strong, emotional connection between the donor and your mission. Within our story, this would be equivalent to the plot or the journey we take with the donor. What are their passions and how does your mission align with those passions? This is when your organization’s work becomes deeply personal, and you demonstrate your organization’s impact on people.
STEP #3: INSPIRATION
Once the head and heart are aligned with your mission, it’s time to inspire. This is when we ask you to be creative and think outside the box. You are introducing your donor to “what could be.” All donors want to solve a problem. What challenge are you wanting to overcome? What opportunity are you wanting to seize? In many ways this phase should leave the donor with an unresolved feeling, wondering how they can help.This piece of the story is the one most overlooked when developing a donor experience, but it is often the most important. Inspiration is what will move a donor from a transactional to a transformational gift.
STEP #4: INVITATION
Finally, the ask! An ask is a deliberate invitation for the donor to play a role in helping you achieve or grow your mission. This is the part of the story where the donor becomes the hero – the missing link to your success. If you have followed the storyboard steps, the invitation to give should be seen as a natural progression of the relationship. Much like a marriage proposal, you may still be nervous but you should have a good idea of the answer before you pop the question. When determining the right time to ask, make sure you are:
Confident in the relationship
Trusted and genuinely liked by the donor
Certain the proposal is understood
Able to gain access to a quality meeting
STEP #5: FULFILLMENT
One last and essential phase to plan before moving forward with a donor experience is fulfillment. It is important to think about how you will honor your donor before the ask. This integral step should leave your donor feeling that this donation was the best possible use of their money. Beyond thanking them for their generosity, you will want to show the donor the impact of their gift on the people you serve. This will reiterate how they have made a quality decision and improve their likelihood of donating again in the future.
Following these five steps to crafting a donor experience will help lead your donor to a quality decision to give. When you take a donor-centric approach, you are on the right path to building long-lasting relationships with your donors that will help transform the mission of your organization.