only one donor

What if you had only one donor? Really. What if your organization or ministry was funded by only one donor, how would that change things?

There was comment made during the great socialvibe debate a week or so back that has been on my mind. The comment came during a tangled discussion of the merits of social media donor acquisition. A comment was posted that went something like this: 10 million people giving 2 dollars each is better than 10 million dollars given by 2 people. I disagreed by saying that if I had 2 donors giving that much my job would be much easier, I wouldn’t need software to manage relationships, I just need two 3 by 5 cards.

I’ve been flipping that around in my mind for a few days.

What would happen if a charity acted as if it only had one donor?

So much of our strategic thinking, analysis and techniques is designed to make it clear to a donor that we know them. We want them to realize that they are important to us. They matter to the work we do.

We have the results of an amazing study posted on our site that points to how few Major Donors feel truly appreciated or that they are important. (It’s a scary thought.)

I gotta tell you, if I only had only one or two donors making everything happen, I think I’d make sure they knew how important they are to me or to my organization or most importantly, how they are the people who are changing lives or building houses or feeding the hungry.

I’d call them and tell them “thank you” (in fact, I’d have to do moves management to keep myself from thanking them too much). I’d make sure they saw the fruits of their giving. I’d care about them personally. Their lives would matter to me.

I don’t know how many donors (or clients) you have, but I suspect it’s more than 1 or 2. However many there are, do your donors know how important they are to the good work you do? When you communicate with your donors, do you get their names absolutely 100% correct (in every mailing)? Do you ask them for gifts that are 100% right for their giving history and capacity?

With one or two donors, I bet you wouldn’t send mail with names misspelled or to “Dear Friend.” (You wouldn’t would you?)

But you have more donors than that.

So can you imagine what would happen if you began to treat all of your donors as if they were the only donor you had? What if your gift processing people realized how important their jobs are and took pains to get the information in the database 100% correct (and in the correct field)?

Hoots is always preaching about how data hygiene is a relationship issue for an organization. I betcha that if you had only a couple of donors, their names would be right! I think you’d have their address correct and they gifts would be recorded correctly. Talk about clean data.

What do you think?

Could you change the culture in your organization to think about all of your donors as if they were your only donor? (That sentence doesn’t work grammatically but it does strategically). Would you answer the phone differently at your office? Would you receipt and thank donors differently? Would you telemarket differently? Would your newsletters be different?

If things would be different, then you need to have a long talk with yourself.

You have to, have to, treat all of your donors as if they are your only donor. Crazy? Yes. True? Yes.

How does that work? Well it won’t surprise you that I have some thoughts about that. But before I start telling you what I think, first, tell me what you think.

What if you had only one donor? Would things change? What would change?

Can’t wait to hear your thinking.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: frielp)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

4 thoughts on “only one donor”

  1. The first thought that creeps across my mind is the importance of getting that one donor to the ministry to see their gift at work – live and in technicolor.

  2. invite them in person and then followup by phone would be the best approach in my judgment. Any donor who visits the ministry is great, but anyone who has given a major gift, multiple gifts, or has an ideal giving history would be all the better since they’ve shown such a commitment.


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