Crafting Your Donor Strategy: 4 Key Elements

No matter the size of your organization, there’s a treasure trove of wisdom to gain from understanding why people choose to give to a cause. Being passionate about your group’s message is a fantastic place to begin when attracting donors—which is just another word for anyone who contributes to your fundraiser—however, what most folks don’t realize is that there are other key ingredients missing!

This might sound odd, but these other ingredients all have to do with things happening in our brain. Multiple psychological functions influence our decision to give money or help a cause. Based on what’s called “the psychology of giving,” we’ve outlined 4 important points to help you boost your donor strategy.

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1. Create Community

Deep down, we all want to feel that we’re part of something larger than ourselves. When we interact with our community, we feel a sense of belonging. As a fundraiser, the key is in figuring out how to make your cause, and people’s participation in it, feel like a united effort. If you’re representing a school, hospital, or a church, you’re in luck! These groups have built-in communities you can leverage. When potential contributors witness the community you’ve created, they’ll be eager to join in the cause!


2. Demonstrate Impact

Community is such an important ingredient because it increases impact. Knowing that we aren’t the only one taking part in a cause, that others care and are involved too, can have a powerful effect on how we feel about our own contribution. As social creatures, we’re influenced by the people around us--the more we see other people buzzing about something, the more likely we are to take interest.

So, what’s the goal of your cause? Once you know, communicate the positive effect it will have. If you’re wondering what that could be, or questioning if your cause is “big” enough, there’s no need to worry! No cause is too small or simple. Your positive effect could be helping the local football team finally get new equipment, or it could be raising much-needed funds for the local children’s hospital. When people see the value in what you’re doing, they’ll be motivated to offer their energy and participation. Others will see this buzz and sense that your cause is important, leading them to find to more about it.


3. Be Donor-centric

Harnessing the power of impact can be tricky. Fundraisers get tripped up when they focus too much on their own cause and not enough on the person making the contribution. People give because it makes them feel good. Sound a little selfish? Maybe, but it’s in our biology.

When planning how you will communicate your message, focus on conveying to donors the impact of their participation. Why should they care about the result? Do they feel a sense of ownership over it? The more you focus on the donor, the more they will feel needed. The more they feel needed, the more likely they are to take action and donate to your cause.

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4. Listen More, Speak Less

One of the great fundraising legends, Jerold Panas, recommends that fundraisers “listen the gift.” What does Panas mean with this simple, 3-word phrase, and how does this man’s strategy for attracting rich donors apply to your smaller, local organization?

Well, first off, his advice applies to all fundraisers, big and small! In line with being “donor-centric,” Panas is encouraging us to let the donor do the talking. This may seem like the reverse of what you’d naturally do; as fundraisers, we want to excitedly share what our cause is all about, to sell people on our idea. Panas recommends that fundraisers do 25% of the talking, while the potential donor does the most. The key is to listen to what that person is interested in and to what they care about. You then connect that information to your group’s message. This is a “two birds, one stone” type of a situation. On one hand, the person receives attention and feels important, and on the other hand, it helps them to see that your group cares about the same things they care about. When people feel connected to your cause, they’ll want to see it succeed.


OK, let’s wrap this all up in a neat bow! Our psychology rules why and how we choose to give. Understanding these influences, your organization will learn to craft a solid donor strategy. While there are multiple factors at play, the key elements to tie together are community, impact, a donor-centric focus, and a listening strategy.


Once you’ve thought through your group’s strategy, it’s full steam ahead. Go attract those donors!