Passion for cause, connections attract big donors

Asked to name the top three motivators for big donors, the guest fundraisers said it’s about the donors’ passion for causes and how they are treated by the charities.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy presented the online discussion Tuesday morning, featuring James Bullock, vice president for university advancement at Queens University, and Bob Carter, a fundraising consultant.

Carter said the top three motivators for big donors are:

  1. Belief in the cause;
  2. The way charities understand donors’ needs; and
  3. How well charities walk donors down the path toward the best gift for everyone.

Bullock’s top three were:

  1. Donors understand how their gifts have been invested by the charities;
  2. Charities connect donors to the causes on an emotional level; and
  3. Donors feel charities genuinely care about them beyond their giving.

The turn-offs for big donors, by the way, are:

  1. Charities’ failures to see donors’ needs (Carter);
  2. Charities having only an institutional perspective (by both men);
  3. Asking too soon without establishing a comfort level first (Carter);
  4. Charities not taking time to truly listen (Bullock); and
  5. Charities not being trustworthy (Bullock).

One of the questions from online participants was: “Donors with the capacity for mega gifts are barraged by requests for funding. Assuming you have mission fit and a connection through a board member, how do you stand out in the crowd?”

Bullock said, “By NOT sending a request! Mega donors are not about requests. They are about connecting with their passions. It is about getting to know them. It is time consuming, but it works.”

Carter said, “By having a mission fit and connection! Quality and sensitivity to the relationship and cultivation will stand out. Asking how you can help them understand your cause and then doing it will make your organization among the 2 in 10 who really does good work in this area of mega gift cultivation.”

When Tom Wilson addresses MVDP Feb. 23, he will focus on how to develop listening techniques that help fundraisers cultivate strong relationships with donors. The program begins at 3 p.m. at the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill, 1313 Mill St. SE, Salem. Season passes admit holders free; others may register in advance and pay $30 to attend. At the door the fee is $40. For more information and to register, go to

Everyone who attends will receive a copy of Wilson’s book, Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners.

Photo by The Chronicle of Philanthropy

This entry was posted in donor management, donors, fundraising, major gifts, MVDP, philanthropy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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