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Donor Participation Project

Build Genuine Relationships with Donors Through Active Listening

Nonprofit fundraisers are increasingly worried about declining donor trust and participation. According to expert Jim Langley, the fix lies in returning to fundamentals. Fundraisers need to build genuine relationships with donors through active listening.

  • Listening demonstrates that you value your donors and the time they give to your cause.
  • Ask open-ended questions about their passions, priorities and perspectives.
  • Share what you’re learning from other donors to show you’re aggregating intelligence.
  • Explain how you’re addressing concerns and frustrations. Donors will appreciate your transparency and feel invested in your shared mission.

Focus on the donor, not the dollars.

A relationship based solely on repeatedly asking for money is not sustainable. Thanking donors is important but not enough. Have real conversations where you listen as much as you talk. Learn about their lives, work and philanthropy. Look for common ground and ways to further engage their skills and talents.

Start with your longest-standing donors.

These loyal supporters deserve special attention. Let them know how much you value their years of dedication. Bring them into critical conversations and treat them as insiders. They have the potential to become key plan gift donors.

Pilot your new approach and evaluate the results.

It may feel overwhelming to revamp all your donor communications at once. Start with a sample and track how donors react. Look for increased openness, engagement and investment in your mission. Share your findings with leadership to build buy-in for relationship-centered fundraising.

Fundraising success depends on the trust and participation of your donors. To stem the loss of both, nonprofits need to reflect on how they built relationships in the first place. Applying the principles of human relationships – active listening, shared purpose, reciprocal value – to institutions can help reconnect with donors and rebuild trust. The dollars will follow in time but only if you make meaningful connections along the way. Focus on listening, and your donors will keep giving.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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