Transporting Your Donor To The Scene Series: Why It’s Important To Take Your Donor Into The Need

It never fails.  The MGO is stuck in his relationship with the donor.  He can’t seem to get her engaged.  He even knows what the donor is interested in, but nothing seems to be working.

So I ask:  “Did you take her there?”

“Where?”

“Did you take her to the scene?”

“What scene?”

“Did you take her right into the need?  Right where the person lives – the person you are trying to help?”

“No, she won’t go.  She doesn’t seem interested in visiting any of the programs we have.”

“But you can still take her.”  I say.  “You can still take her with your words and pictures.  You can transport her right into the scene!”

And then it dawns on me that this bit about taking the donor right into the scene – about using words and pictures to replicate the experience of actually being there, is easier said than done.  And there are a lot of blocks, both internal and external to the MGO, to actually doing it.  And it is difficult to cross the line from your comfortable place right into the hurt and pain of the need.

That’s why I am writing this six post series on “Transporting Your Donor To The Scene”.  I have first-hand experience in what happens when you take a donor there physically.  When you do that right it changes everything.  Everything.  Why?  Because when donors, with all of their senses, can experience the need, it grabs their hearts in a most dramatic way. You know what I mean.

It happens to me every time I visit a program and get close to the person in need.  It reaches out and grabs me – it changes me.

Let me give you an example.  Several weeks ago I was at a ground-breaking ceremony for The Salvation Army’s Door of Hope program in San Diego.  The Door of Hope helps homeless mothers and their children get their lives back together.

I went to what I thought would be a straightforward ceremony with speeches, music and presentations – plus the obligatory shovel of dirt.  I was sitting in the back, enjoying a comfortable sunny San Diego afternoon listening and watching the program develop, and then a mom got up and told her story.

It was a dramatic story of pain, abuse, injustice, loneliness and hurt.  My stomach was in a knot.  And then there was redemption and restoration as I heard how these good Salvation Army folks brought this awful and hopeless situation into a warm bright light of love and care.

I looked around at the other moms and kids, some peering out of the doorways and windows of the buildings behind us.  And I broke down and cried.  It grabbed me.  The need just grabbed me.  I was there, right at the scene.

Now, it is true that there is nothing like being there.  So, I am beginning to appreciate what it takes to actually transport the donor to the scene emotionally through the use of words and images.

And while actually being there vs. telling the story are not exactly the same in impact, it is true that if you can faithfully replicate what you see and FEEL when you are in a program location, you will be more likely to get your donor’s attention and, more importantly, his heart, which is the driving factor in the whole decision making process.

Look at it this way:  You know what it’s like when you are excitedly telling a story to your friend or loved one and then say, “You should have been there!”  You know full well they weren’t there, but you mean that their presence at the scene would have helped them understand your story better.

You’ve probably said this hundreds of times. I know I have.

You should have been there!

Well, that is what you have to do with a donor.  You have to, as best as you can, take him to the scene – to where he can see, hear and feel the need.  That is what I am going to write about in the next five posts.  Here is the order of things:

  1. Zeroing in on the need.
  2. Identifying and talking about the cause of the need.
  3. Documenting what is going to happen if the need is not met.
  4. Why we have trouble talking about need.
  5. The steps you should take once you have successfully taken the donor to the scene.

You will discover, in the next few posts, that dealing with and talking about the need is not an easy thing to do.  In fact, most often, we avoid it.  And there are emotional, psychological and ethical issues that tie us in a knot on this subject.  I will explore them all.

So, stay tuned.

In the meantime, do some thinking about how you handle talking about the need.  Pull out some of the proposals, letters and other docs you have written and read them again.  Look at the video you produced.  Then sit back and ask yourself this question:  “Did I take the donor right to the scene?”  Most likely you didn’t.  And that is what we need to fix.

Richard

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About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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