Gail with Simone Joyaux and Mark Stuart at the 2016 AFP International Conference

In honor of the late, very great Simone Joyaux, we are running a post from her brilliant website.

Simone was my very first fundraising teacher – a woman of power, insight and brilliance.

Impatient with complacency, she had a “take no prisoners” approach to the nonprofit and fundraising field. Simone’s motto was to “raise more hell.”

We agree. If we really want to change the world, then it’s time to be impatient, bold and keep fighting on. Let’s do so – to honor her memory and keep her energy alive. 

Her surviving husband, Tom Ahern, is also a fundraising guru in his own right – and also one of our favorite people.

Huge Loss to the Fundraising World

Simone passed on Sunday from a massive stroke, surprising all of us in the fundraising world. You can read some of the tributes to Simone that are flooding around the world this week here and here.

In honor of Simone,  and her fierce spirit – we are sharing this wonderful missive on true donor-centric fundraising. I am also adding my own comments in the bullets after each of Simone’s numbered statements:

To be truly donor-centric, this is what your organization should pledge:

We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe…

1. That donors are essential to the success of our mission.

  • In fact, without donors, you would not have the finances to operate.

2. That gifts are not “cash transactions.” Donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks and wallets.

  • Donors are not ATM’s, ready to give just because you want them too.

3. That no one “owes” us a gift just because our mission is worthy.

  • In fact, you have to earn that gift – and your donor’s trust. It doesn’t just walk in the door.

4. That any person who chooses to become our donor has enormous potential to assist the mission.

  • In fact, donors are a huge asset to your organization.
  • One donor can eventually become a very large donor.
  • They all offer mega potential.

5. That having a program for developing a relationship with that donor is how organizations tap that enormous potential.

  • A thoughtful donor loyalty program is your tool for developing long term donor relationships.

6. That we waste that potential when donors are not promptly thanked.

  • Thanking is a lost art. Poor thank yous drive donors away.

7. That “lifetime value of a donor” is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate “return on investment” in fundraising.

8. That donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.

9. That acquiring first-time donors is easy but keeping those donors is hard.

  • Donor retention is one of the biggest challenges every organization faces.

10. That many first-time gifts are no more than “impulse purchases” or “first dates.”

  • Often donors don’t even remember that they made that first gift, it was so impulsive.

11. That we’ll have to work harder for the second gift than we did for the first.

12. That a prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.

  • Your donor loyalty program should include donor-centric communications, and warm welcomes.

13. That donors want to have faith in us, and that it’s our fault if they don’t.

14. That donors want to make a difference in the world — and that our mission is one of many means to that end.

  • Donors are investing in us and our mission. And they can find other missions to support easily.

15. That donors are investors. They invest in doing good. They expect their investment to prosper, or they’ll invest somewhere else.

  • That’s why it’s so important to report back to donors and tell them about the impact their gift made.
  • Reporting back on impact brings your donors joy.

16. That we earn the donor’s trust by reporting on our accomplishments and efficiency.

  • Donors like to know that your organization is well-run. Don’t misspell their names!

17. That individual donors respond to our appeals for personal reasons we can only guess at.

  • Everyone gives for different, deeply personal reasons.

18. That asking a donor why she or he gave a first gift to us will likely lead to an amazingly revealing conversation.

  • Every donor has a fascinating story about why they care about our work.
  • When we ask donors to share their story, we build trust and credibility with them.

19. That fundraising serves the donors’ emotional needs as much as it serves the organization’s financial needs.

  • Giving is an emotional act.
  • Our appeals need to touch an emotional chord in the donor’s heart.

20. That we are in the “feel good” business. Donors feel good when they help make the world a better place.

  • It’s our job to help them feel wonderful about why they gave.

21. That a prime goal of fundraising communications is to satisfy basic human needs such as the donor’s need to feel important and worthwhile.

22. That the donor’s perspective defines what is a “major” gift.

23. That every first gift can open a door to an entirely new world for the donor, through participation in our cause.

Bottom Line: Donor-Centric Fundraising

Simone Joyaux nails it in this post. We hope our comments in the bullets are helpful to you.

Every organization can do a better job orienting its communications to a donor-centered perspective. You’ll raise much more money if you can say “yes” to these goals.

Reprinted with permission:

© Ahern and Joyaux. From Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships, by Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux (John Wiley & Company Publishers, November 2007)