The Worst Mistake

“Rob, what’s the worst mistake a fundraiser can make?”

I’ve been asked that question many, many times.

You know what? Donors can be very forgiving to a fundraiser. Being late, or talking too much.  Most donors will give us a pass.

In the same way, if we forget that direct mail still matters, that 85% or more of all planned gifts are plain old bequests, or if we stubbornly avoid focusing on our Top 40, well, those aren’t smart moves but not the end of the world.

But when we get to those things that will really hurt us, that are hard to fix, what might those be?

Looking at your phone while on a donor visit.

Giving that donor the impression you have somewhere else you need to be.

Being consistently forgetful.  Neglecting to learn from mistakes and neglecting to remember those mistakes.

Acting in a dismissive manner toward your colleagues.

Breaching a confidence from a donor.

Being dishonest.

Those are deal breakers.  As I sat and thought, really thought about those things that can sink a fundraiser it came to me that most everything boils down to one simple truth:

Never, ever, make a donor feel small.

Every donor matters.  No matter who, no matter how large or small the gift, every donor wants to believe they matter to you, and to your organization. 

If we as fundraisers ever give a donor the clear impression they don’t matter to us, from a form acknowledgment letter, not returning a call, cutting a visit short or whatever, you can kiss their support and that relationship goodbye.

Our success in fundraising is determined by our success in building relationships. And in any relationship, the other person wants to know they matter to you. 

Next time, a true story that proves it.