what your donors want: transformation

Knowing what your donors want is more important than knowing what you want. If you are raising funds or leading a nonprofit organization, you better know what your donors want. Much of the time spent in planning communications, fundraising and marketing for nonprofits is spent ignoring what donors want. Understand, I’m not suggesting that you ignore mission or your values. I’m saying that if you don’t know what the people who will fund your mission want, then you will not have as much funding as if you actually considered your donors in your planning.

I’ve been thinking about this question, “what do donors want?” for several weeks. I’ve distilled it into 5 things that donors want. I’ll roll these out over several blog posts. I’m not doing these in priority order because I’d like to get your feedback and input — not only on the priority order but on the content.

Enough with the introduction. Here’s what donors want: “transformation.”

Dictionary dot com defines “transformation” this way: “complete change.”

Candidly, I really didn’t want to use the word “transformation,” I wanted to use “change.” But I decided that “change” wasn’t strong enough. I love to say that donors want to “change the world” and they do. But as a single word, “change” isn’t enough. So, I’m going with “transformation” since I’m trying for one word answers.

Your donors want to transform [fill in the blank]. [Fill in the blank] could be Africa or children or homelessness or poverty or children at risk in Africa or abused mothers or homeless children or Americans without health care. [Fill in the blank] isn’t our primary focus. Today, just consider that your donors want “transformation.”

You’re probably wondering why I’d make a big deal about this. You’re thinking, of course, donors want to transform [fill in the blank].


Take a minute and get your latest communication to your donors. Give it a quick scan. Is the impression one gets from scanning, that a donor will transform [fill in the blank] with their gift? Too often the focus is on the stuff or the programs you are doing. Or worse, the focus is on budgets and buildings, not the transformation your organization is creating.

Your donors want to change the world, improve their neighborhood, bless their neighbors, heal a child, eliminate poverty, cure cancer…they want transformation. If you’re not talking with them about the transformation that is happening through your work, you aren’t giving them what they want.

So what do you think? Do donors want transformation? How are you talking to your donors about your [fill in the blank]? I’d love to know what you think.

And it’s Monday! Time for a Good Job Monday. Today’s shoutout goes to Steve Kline of Synergema. Steve’s a Vice President in charge of sales or marketing or something important like that. We recently discovered his company on Twitter. They’re a revolutionary company that creates inspiring web experiences for their clients: from websites to email marketing campaigns to custom applications. They’re super cool. Plus we love companies with unusual company names. But here’s why Steve gets our good job shoutout. Hoots discovered that Steve volunteers every Monday night at a local men’s homeless shelter. Anyone like Steve who takes time out of a very busy schedule to give back to his community in this way gets a “Good Job Steve!” from me.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Fuyoh!)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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