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Meaningful Nonprofit Donor Experience: Habitat for Humanity Women Build Day

By June 27, 2018July 10th, 2018Donor Engagement

What are the best ways to create a meaningful nonprofit donor experience?

1. The “ask” must be from the “right person” – preferably someone they can’t say no to.

2. Make it fun and easy to participate.

3. Connect supporters directly to your mission.

4. Show supporters the impact (the face & story of one person) of their work.

5. Always, always, be clear about your money story.

A Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity Women Build day I participated in hit-the-nail-on-the-head, so to speak, in every way.

Make the Ask from the Right Person

getting an ask from the right person makes for a better donor experienceCathy Lawrence, VP Resource Development and Community Engagement for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, has been a friend and colleague for years. So, when she invited me to HER Women Build Day, I jumped at the chance.

Make it Fun

There actually is a right way and a wrong way to hammer.

Who knew? Now I do.

Through the rain and clouds we had expert guides teaching us about safety and answering the same questions over and over again. And while HFH is a well-oiled machine when it comes to building homes this event made me think about site visits, donor tours, fundraising events, board meetings, 1:1 coffee with a donor, and all the opportunities we might be missing to inject levity into our donor and volunteer experiences.

What can you do to add fun?

• Wear hats (or even hard hats!).

• Allow supporters go experience a short version of the exact same training a client goes through.

• Provide fun name tags. (Ours were written on painters tape on our rain gear.)

• Allow volunteers or donors to choose a “team-leader” at their table or during the event.

• Send attendees home with something useful to remember their experience. (I got a handy tape measure with the HFH logo.)

Connect Supporters Directly to Your Mission

Spending time onsite at a Habitat build location is about as mission-connecting as it gets. There is a tangible feeling of working together and creating something that will make a difference for someone else.

No matter what your mission, being creative can be a win-win for donors, volunteers, and the people you serve.

• Invite donors and volunteers attending your fundraising event to write a short note of congratulations to someone you serve for graduating, finishing a class, staying sober, getting a job. . . you get the idea.

• Allow agency tour visitors to write messages of support on note cards or recipe cards to be used throughout the year for different people.

• Invite donors to shop for a family for a birthday or holiday. Don’t assume they won’t because they already gave this year.

Show supporters the impact (the face & story of one person) of their work

showing supporters their impact will help the donor experience

At lunch we sat in a circle on empty buckets and participated in an interesting, thoughtful exercise to ensure housing myths were dispelled. We all learned something new AND got to put a face to the work we were doing.

While we didn’t learn any specifics about the family who would live in “our” house, a connection was made to people in similar situations.

Always, Always Be Clear About Your Money Story

When you have a captive audience of one or more, do not forget to share the financial story about your work. Answer these questions:

• What does it take (money, staff, volunteers) to complete the project being worked on?

• What amount of funding is provided by philanthropy? By government contracts? Other sources?

• What’s left to raise for the project, the capital campaign, or your annual fundraising goal?

Don’t assume people won’t give more time or financial support. Years ago I head a statistic that was something like: 95% of volunteers give money. But most don’t give to the organization where they volunteer. . . because they are not asked.

If feeling great is what we want our donors and volunteers to feel, what are you doing to make certain it happens?

My thanks to Cathy, Rhonda, and all of the HFH Twin Cities staff who made our rainy build day feel great!

Learn how to create one-of-a-kind experiences for your donors: Download the Checklist for Sizzling Mission-Focused Agency Visits.


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