boston marathon Posts

Is Your Relationship with Your Charity Going Nowhere Fast?

“We need to talk.  I feel like all I do is give and give and give, but never get anything in return.  I can’t keep this up.  I’m sorry…it’s over.”

Does that sound familiar?  Maybe you’ve used that line before.  Maybe you were just watching Sex and the City reruns last night.  Or maybe you were talking to your (formerly) favorite charity.

When people donate to an organization, they feel like they will forever be solicited by spam email and countless donation requests in their mailbox.  This can sometimes deter them from donating again, or even from making a donation in the first place.

I like to call my personal donation strategy, “People I Know and Places I Go.”

People I Know:

  • New Spirit: I know founders Pat Sears and Barry Kingston and believe in the work they’re doing.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston: Here, my connection is not with the Hospital, but my brother is running the Boston Marathon for the Hospital this year, so I choose to support them through him.

Places I Go:

  • Church: Admittedly I’m not the most regular church-goer, but I put money in the basket every time I attend mass.
  • Alma Maters: I give to both my high school and undergraduate university. I haven’t yet, but will likely give to my graduate program as well.
  • GlobalGiving:  Well, I do come to work here every day.

But the difference between these causes and others is that my relationship with them was already solidified.  I will keep giving to these organizations and institutions because I have a personal connection to them.  It doesn’t matter to me how much or how little I am solicited because they no longer need to convince me to give.  I’ve been fully converted.

But how do you develop a relationship without seeming too eager?  What’s the charitable equivalent of waiting at least three days before you call to ask about a second date?  How can someone develop a lasting relationship with a charity if it isn’t a “place they go” or “person they know”?  How is that loyalty developed?  I have a couple ideas:

  1. Get Involved:  Sometimes the best approach isn’t to try to get people excited about you, but find out what they’re already excited about and get involved.  It’s not a coincidence that Red Sox fans go crazy for Jimmy Fund Telethon Day at Fenway.
  2. Relevancy:  Find out what you can mean to a donor; what “void” you are filling in their life.  Associate yourself with that – as long as you keep fulfilling the need, they’re likely to come back to you.
  3. Be an Experience:  Donating shouldn’t be like a toll booth; a one way stop for depositing money.  Make donors like what they’re doing enough to want to do it again.
  4. Accountability:  This has 2 steps; a) follow through on what you say you’re going to do, and b) exceed expectations.