Roger and I are big believers in building donor relationships, based upon positive donor attitudes and experiences, in order to maximize donor lifetime value. However, reading this rundown on successful direct mail tactics employed by candidates in 2012 left me wondering … would I want a ‘donor relationship’ with any of these folks?

That led me in turn to: Does any giver really want a ‘donor relationship’ with a charity or nonprofit?

Are Roger and I simply hopeless romantics?

Maybe the candidate fundraisers have it right. In effect, they say: “We know you hate X, fear Y, covet Z, so just give our guy (or gal) your money and be done with it. We all know it’s just a one night stand. When this is over, we’ll go on our separate ways. Until we meet again.”

The charity equivalent would be: “Kids are dying of diseases they shouldn’t have. You either care or you don’t. If you do, send us a check.” You the prospective donor think: “I wasn’t even thinking about it until I opened this letter/email, but yes, I do care about kids. I’ll do my bit. I hope you don’t waste my money.”

C’mon, really, the charity just wants to get on with spending the money. And the donor just wants to get back to their everyday life. Relationship? You gotta be kidding.

OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit. In reality, all manner and degrees of relationship exist between donors and the organizations they give to. I might actually feel close to my alma mater, the local food bank or zoo or museum, the hospice that cared for my parent, or the group protecting my local river. Or I might not feel close at all to my alma mater, an international relief agency, or a Washington lobbying organization. In either case, I still give.

So, consider this.

I posit that behind every single donation made there is an impulse — strong and deeply felt, or weak and unconscious — to be connected.

Joined to a cause, a victim, a group whose values I share (a tribe, if you please), even just supporting (or going along with) a friend. In essence, giving is reaching out to someone, something. Even in the isolation of filling out a reply card or an online form, it’s an act of extroversion. It is, in fact, the first step toward a relationship, even if that’s not top-of-mind to the giver.

So, at the end of the day, every act of giving/connecting does have the potential to become a relationship. Whether that happens depends entirely on the reaction the giver receives when they reach out.

And that’s where you come in.

Tom

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