The Mikuska Group  

Practice donor love principles

I had the privilege of speaking about the seven Donor Love principles at three workshops earlier this year.

These principles were coined by John Lepp and Jen Love, who run an agency in Toronto called Agents of Good. Since they first appeared, the donor love principles (and principals) have been presenting at conferences and in blog posts by John and Jen and others.

So how do you practice #donorlove?

Principle 1: You make your donor the hero. You tell them in every email, direct mail piece, every newsletter. Give them an opportunity to fix the world. They want to help. They want to fix something. They want to make a difference. (And remember, they don’t give because you’re great. They give because they’re great.)

Principle 2: Share amazing and inspiring stories. Stories are how you connect to your donors’ emotions. They must be able to feel and see who they’re helping. And if the problem is too big, they’ll ignore it. Remember the single story and image of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was found washed up on the beach in Greece. That was the story that finally put a heartbreaking face on the refugee crisis.

Principle 3: Connect to your donors’ values and emotions. People give when they’re mad, sad, hopeful, conflicted, angry, frustrated – you name it. They’re moved to act when the feel something and feel they can make a difference.

Principle 4: Falling and staying in love. You’re building a relationship with a donor. What can make them feel good about their decision to give? Think about donor love from their perspective – what moves them?

Principle 5: Ask for one thing. Donors want to help fix something and feel really good about it. So  tell them what the problem is and how they, the donor, can be the solution. You need to make it easy with a clear call to action. Don’t give them a dozen choices or ask them to renew their membership at the same time.

Principle 6: Who or what is the right voice for your story? What are you asking and who is the right voice for the question? It’s not always the executive director, development director or board chair. Sometimes it’s a grateful recipient of service. Sometimes a program staff or volunteer. And sometimes it’s a bird, a food truck or dining room table (at a women’s shelter). Use your imagination.

Principle 7: Say thanks with passion. Don’t back into a thank you – just come out and say it! Don’t say “On behalf of the Board of Directors…” Say “Thank you so much for giving this person back their life” or “Because of you, this happened to change someone’s life. Thank you.” Tell them about the impact of their gifts. Use emotion and creativity and above all, be sincere.

The 7 principles work. You need to be consistent in applying them and not give in to trying to educate donors. You must tell donors they are making a difference in the world.

And thanks so much to the Agents of Good for defining the #donorlove principles!

Julie Mikuska.


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