David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions
Donor stewardship has been a more frequent topic of conversation with our clients lately. We all know that inspiring new donors is much more difficult and costly than building stronger relationships with the people who are already supporting our efforts. And, while there are many layers to forming an effective donor relationship strategy, for today I’m just focusing on one key ingredient.
Growing up, many of us were taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a good rule and one that certainly can help children understand how their actions might make other people feel. Full disclosure, my wife and I referenced the Golden Rule on countless occasions while raising our sons.
Nevertheless, if we adhere to the Golden Rule when building donor relationships, we are simply not honoring our role in the most effective or authentic way. Thankfully there is a more considerate rule for us to apply, the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” More simply, where the Golden Rule says we should treat others how we like to be treated, the Platinum Rule accommodates for the fact that not everyone likes to be treated the same way and mandates that we instead treat people the way they want to be treated.
As Dr. Tony Alessandra writes, “The focus of relationships shifts from ‘this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing’ to ‘let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.” He goes on to say, “The goal of The Platinum Rule is personal chemistry and productive relationships. You simply have to understand what drives people and recognize your options for dealing with them. ”
Think about some of your major donors and what motivates them to support your mission. Do you know what aspect of your work or which programs are of a specific interest to them? What life experience or personal philanthropic goal is connecting them to your organization?
Using the Platinum Rule as a guide, what if you invested time in learning the answers to these questions with your key supporters? Some folks may like an annual face-to-face meeting, while other people may prefer a phone call once a quarter. You may also have donors who are so busy that their preferred mode of conversation is via email, because it affords them the opportunity to respond when their time allows.
At the end of the day, if we commit to the Platinum Rule and to prioritizing our donors’ needs/desires/motivations over our own, we will absolutely have greater success in building lasting and rewarding donor relationships.
David Gee is an experienced development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David serves on Forefront’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.