It can be hard and a bit sad to have to think about the mission of your organization and all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that have gone into it in such a clinical way. But there is a durable truth here: to get something we have to offer and give something in return. There has to be more of a give and take relationship between your nonprofit and your stakeholders than that of bank and ATM machine.
There is also a hard truth about finances and nonprofits that is directly related to this: no nonprofit can survive without a sustainable financial base. It is not free to do good work, have an office or website, and responsibly steward gifts of money, time and effort.
Whether it is called overhead, administration or management expenses, keeping the doors open and the work spinning requires costs as well.
The need to bring in funds is never ending and ongoing. Keeping that donor supportive requires more than constant asking, it requires some giving as well.
Withdrawal or Deposit?
To withdraw from an account, there has to be something there to draw against; further, deposits have to be ongoing to make sure there is no overdrawn account. That will result in a loss of support, financial and otherwise, maybe even some unpleasant penalties.
The good news is the deposits you need to make aren’t necessarily money. The deposits can include updated and current information about your work, how your donors make that work real and showing the visible, tangible results that are the result of the support they have provided. The current buzzwords of engagement and donor-centric giving practices (just because the words are horribly abused doesn’t mean they don’t have currency) are excellent examples of the kind of deposit your organization can make towards keeping your accounts with them active and vital.
How Do You Feel When You Are Treated As A Checkbook?
There are organizations to whom I have donated money and materials; a surprising percentage of them never even reply or that reply is limited to an email acknowledging my payment. But then I begin to and continue to receive requests and solicitations from them.I feel as though I am only an ATM to them.
Occasionally those letters are personalized with my name (and often that is not even correct) but otherwise there is nothing special in that communication with me. I gave because I cared and I felt that my gift at that time would make a difference. But seldom do I make a second gift when I feel as if I just paid to get my name and address on a list.
Your donors and supporters and board members and vendors may feel the same way. It may seem trite, but an account is the the relationship you build with that supporter.
What Is The Solution?
Spend some time thinking about what you can do to make a deposit into those relationship accounts you have. What can you do differently, what surprising effort can you include in your busy day to let your supporter understand how important that gift is to you?
Everyone’s time is tight, but there is always time for an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Maybe it is a handwritten or personal note on the official receipt, maybe it is a request for a quote in the newsletter, and maybe it is an invitation for a cup of coffee.
Sometimes a phone call,maybe not even from you, but someone else in the organization can be both unexpected and welcome. Even if you only leave a message, that call can make the withdrawal your donor made from their account feel more like a deposit with you.
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