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How to Fail at Donor Relationships—Part I

            Not long ago a ministry approached me wanting a grant.  This is not a new happening.  I’m used to the idea.


            And let me confess, the traditional paradigm of ministry funding has ruled for decades.  In this traditional model a ministry presents its vision, tells a story illustrating the vision, and then everyone stands back and says, “wow.”  From there a check is written.


            That model is fading. 


            The new model requires something more.  There is more competition than ever for donor dollars.  There are more than $1 million non profits in the country competing for $300 billion dollars of annual giving.  This includes organizations like hospitals, universities and associations.  The competition is intense.


            Back to the story:  when the ministry approached me for the grant, I began to ask my normal questions.  How many people have they served?  How much was given?  Could they tie the dollars that were given to any kind of tangible impact?  Could the impact be measured without telling stories?  Could they actually give me statistical data?


            Here’s where the failure occurred.  The ministry told me they appreciated my questions, and kept pointing towards their stories.  But no data.  No hard evidence they’d succeeded.  Worse they were a bit miffed that I asked for this kind of data.


            Unfortunately, this scenario occurs more often than I care to admit.  But in our brave new world post 2008, its clear that more than ever donors do care and are concerned that their gift demonstrate results—in actual data and not just stories.


About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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