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Crossing Off Your To Do List or Building Relationships?

By July 6, 2009March 30th, 2014Development

Not surprisingly most development professionals have a long “to do” list. It can feel overwhelming to keep up with data-entry, make donor phone calls, draft mailings & reports and do all the other tasks associated with our work.  Because there is so much, being able to cross things off a to do list can feel great.

But do we get too caught up in the satisfaction of the action that we forget the basis of our work? Building deeper relationships with our donors? I was reminded recently by Greg, a long-time development professional, that crossing off the list doesn’t always honor someone’s connection to our organization.

At a meeting recently, Greg asked me to review a letter he was sending to a handful of donors who had lapsed on their annual pledges. He explained that these 8 people had made their initial pledges anywhere from one to three years ago. My question to him was, When is the last time you had any personal contact with them?”

“Not for the last year or two other than the thank you call they received for their gifts,” was Greg’s honest reply. “But they all receive our newsletter two times a year.”

I pondered this and talked with Greg about the fact that while the letter was written well, these people cared enough to make a pledge at one time, when they felt deeply connected and moved by the mission. To send a letter asking for the money may feel unwelcoming on the receiving end. It would be more powerful to connect via phone with these folks who may be facing financial challenges themselves or experiencing a lack of connection to the organization. We discussed a phone approach that felt authentic, with questions about how THEY are doing in this economy, conducted a short role play about one of the donors, and I left.

The next day I received these words from Greg in an email message:

“Thank you for sharing your time, inspiration, and guidance to talk this issue through and take my work to whole new levels. Deep down I know this work is all about relationships and energy. Sometimes it is hard to remember this in the midst of all the paperwork, the nuts and bolts details to manage, and the things that come at you to juggle.

Sometimes it’s hard to make that phone call when you share an office or somebody is vacuuming. And it would just be more convenient and expedient to send that reminder letter and cross the task off a list. I can write a good letter, but I realize now that it bypasses the opportunity to authentically connect with our donors and take our relationship to the next level.”

Do you know how your top donors are faring in this economy? I hope Greg’s words will inspire YOU to pick up the phone and find out. When you do, if you are authentic in wanting to learn more about them and share something new about your organization, I guarantee the message you leave or the conversation you have WILL move things to a new level in their relationship with you.

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