Editor’s Note: Douglas Shaw was kind enough to share with us some excerpts from his highly personable and practical new book, The Rules of Fundraising. We’ll be running ten of Doug’s 35 rules here on Fieldnotes in the coming weeks—you can read the introduction and rules onetwosixeightnineeleven, twelve, and seventeen—and we encourage you to purchase the book on Amazon to read the rest.

Rule #24: What you think of people will determine how you treat them.

How do we look at our donors? Do we see them for the treasured creatures of God they are or do we see them only as a means to our end? Are we here to serve them or to use them? Are we caring deeply about them or are we praying they’ll make a swift journey to paradise so we can finally hear the reading of their wills?

I think it’s worth pausing for a moment to look closely at how we are communicating with our donors. Are we being intentional in our communication? By this I mean: Are we thinking about the donor first or are we giving into the many pressures of development and just trying to achieve our income forecast?

It might be good for us to consider the fact that we really don’t have any donors. They don’t really belong to us. They could just as easily give their gifts to some other great cause, but they’ve decided to support our organization. I’ve come to see that donors themselves are a gift from God! So just how do we become more intentional in our communication with those who support our cause?

Over the years I’ve seen ministries do their best to inform their donors that they are indeed worthy of the gifts being sent to them. Many times this involves statements like, “Last month we helped our community by providing 1,000 meals to senior citizens.” This is great. It shows the donors that their gifts really made a difference in the lives of deserving people.

Now let’s try this same statement, only this time let’s shift the focus to the donor. I call it being Donor-Focused: “Last month, because of your generosity, 1,000 meals were provided to the senior citizens of our community. Thank you so much for caring!” Subtle, isn’t it? It’s only a few degrees of difference. The first statement is institutionally-focused. It conveys similar information but it doesn’t credit the donor with being a part of the solution. The second statement is donor-focused. This approach or philosophy quietly moves your organization out of the way but not out of the picture. It places the emphasis where it needs to be—i.e., on the people who give, pray, or volunteer!

We take this philosophy so seriously here at Douglas Shaw & Associates that we’ve trademarked the phrase: Donor-Focused Strategic MarketingTM. It’s our experience that using this philosophy—coupled with The 5 Commandments of Offer Development (Rule 8)—will increase most nonprofits’ incomes, regardless of the communication channel used.


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