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Why People Give

As fundraisers, I know that you are often overwhelmed with opportunities to learn more about your craft in seminars, workshops, and training sessions, for example. And when it comes to annual giving, major gifts, and planned giving very smart people talk about cultivation. They tell you about primary and secondary contacts, board involvement, software, stewardship and many other things.

All of the above are necessary for success, it’s true. But, in my opinion, at the core of all of this is one simple word — trust. It’s really the one reason why donors give and give again to your nonprofit.


Yes, they believe in your mission, have respect for your staff, board and management. But the reason for success in fundraising is the trust your stakeholders have in you and your organization.

Trust implies that you behave in a certain way consistently. It also implies honesty in all things. Trust means that your organization is seen as good stewards of donor gifts and that donors are treated with respect.

It means that your organization does what it says it will do. Trust means that you keep your promises. It holds true to the implied unwritten contract that exists between you and your donors.

And this trust that your donors have placed in you demands that you be personal with them. You call them to thank them for their gifts. You make every major solicitation personal. As much as possible, your communications are 1-1. Though you may not always be looking for gifts, you are always showing a genuine interest in your prospect or donor.

Your staff understands the importance of being as helpful to donors as possible. You are as knowledgeable as possible about your organization, you’re prepared, you do your homework and donors see this dedication to your mission. It generates respect and enables donor satisfaction.

Does exceeding expectations generate trust? Of course, it does. Is it important? For sure.

The gift(s) that result from all of the practices just mentioned are the gestures that symbolize great trust.

What have you done recently to create an atmosphere of trust with your donors?

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