Donor Engagement: Do Your Homework!

About the Author

Lou Anne brings extensive experience in nonprofit development and strategic planning to the Lighthouse Counsel team. She is former director of development for the Siloam Family Health Center and has worked with the Tennessee Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, as well as in a variety of development positions at Western Kentucky University, University of Central Florida and Auburn University.

Recently my husband and I attended a volunteer appreciation event for an agency where I volunteer weekly, 2 -3 hours. Actually, I was to receive an award for volunteer service, my name and picture were in the program and on the table tents. We have been consistent annual fund supporters via a donor directed gift through United Way, which can be hard to track, I know. To my utter amazement, not one member of the agency development team or leadership spoke to us. The board chair finally took it upon himself to come over to congratulate us.

No one had cross-referenced the donor list with the volunteer list. No one had cross-referenced the guest list with the corporate sponsor list to determine that my husband worked for one of the agencies’ largest corporate donors. Now, they are kicking off an annual fund initiative.

We all need to make the time to do our homework. Personal contact with donors is becoming increasingly difficult. We must be prepared to

maximize our time with our donors and supporters; particularly at events we host or attend. How often can we afford, literally and figuratively, to make mistakes like this organization?

This type of mistake can be easily rectified with some quick research that is shared with key staff and board leaders. However, systematically, organizations should make it a priority to know their donors, volunteers and sponsors. For organizations to achieve their missions and exceed their goals, development professionals must pair strong, personal relationships with thorough preparation day in and day out.