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Leadership Monday: Know When to Keep Your Distance

How about a teaching moment today?

There’s lots of talk in fundraising about the importance of nonprofits forging deeper, more intimate relationships with their donors. In theory and in practice it makes good sense. The stronger the relationship is the better chance you have to keep donors and get them to increase their gift-giving, right?

What if donors want less of a relationship with you? It’s a scary, but realistic thought. It’s also your responsibility as the leader of your nonprofit to teach your staff to be sensitive to those among your donors who don’t wish to have anything more than what is known as a transactional relationship with you.

The fact is that there are times where additional “non-fundraising contact” with donors has no impact or even results in decreased giving or loss of donors.

It’s important, I think, to teach staff (and to keep in mind yourself) that not all donors may be as wrapped up in your mission as you are. Some, maybe even most of them, just want to give and that’s all. they don’t want to be invited, much less attend, a luncheon with other donors. They probably aren’t all that interested in having a private one-on-one with you either. Hard to believe, I know, but true in many instances.

Having said that, it’s also true that there will always be those donors seeking lots of connection and information. The more you give them what they seek the deeper their generosity will be.

Sadly, the above sentence is the exception (otherwise, fundraising would just be too easy).

So remember, for a majority of your donors your job is NOT relationship building — it is being able to recognize and handle a low-connection relationship the right way. It’s giving just the right amount of attention without crossing the line to too much. It means telling clear and compelling stories. It also means being thankful for support, but not overly so.

Anything more may be crossing the line into what these particular donors feel is intrusiveness.

Finally, remember this type of donor is probably never going to become one of your super heroes, but, if treated properly, will be a dependable donor who can be counted upon time after time as long as you don’t try to get too close. And you know what? That’s okay!

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