You need more than stories to communicate your impact to donors--statistical data is just as necessary.

How to Fail at Donor Relationships—Part I

How to Fail at Donor Relationships—Part I

by Bill High

This post is the first in a two-part series. Here’s another great way to fail at donor relationships!

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

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 370,000 nonprofits in the country competing for upwards of $400 billion dollars of annual giving. This includes organizations like hospitals, universities and associations. The competition is intense.

When the ministry approached me for the grant, I began to ask my normal questions. How many people have they served? What was their current fundraising revenue? Could they tie the donated dollars to any kind of tangible impact? Could they measure their impact apart from telling stories? Did they have statistical data to give me?

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 current fundraising world, its clear that more than ever donors do care and are concerned that their gift demonstrate results—in actual data and not just stories.


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Published April 25, 2011

Topics: Nonprofit Development

DonorsNonprofit Development

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