Monday, February 20, 2012

Value yourself as a donor

I used to work in donor services at a large nonprofit. For low-dollar donors, there was a person who could answer your questions by phone or email. Once you started donating more, you were assigned a “gift officer” whose job it was to stay in touch and be nice to you. They rarely ask you to donate, but they're there to answer your questions and provide you with glossy brochures about the good work you're funding. If you're interested in a particular program, they can get you more information on that. They host receptions for major donors to meet each other.

For its employees, the charity provided an attractive workspace with good coffee and tea. At first I wavered on things like this – did it really make sense for a charity to spend money on courting me as a donor, or free tea for me and my coworkers? Shouldn't it be sending every possible penny to the actual field work?

Well, no. The attractive setting, good benefits, and free caffeine probably reduced turnover and improved productivity. And given that fundraising is a business, I'm sure that the optimal level of sucking up to donors was well-studied.

People love to tell me, “If you give everything away, you'll have to depend on others for charity!” I never proposed to do that. If I did that, I would burn out before you can say “rice and beans.” If my life as a donor is difficult enough that I hate it, I'd quit. That would be a bad outcome for everyone.

Imagine a charity that wants your donation. How would they best interact with you? They probably shouldn't wine you and dine you too much, or you'll think they were wasteful. Nor should they be too pushy or lay the guilt on too hard, or you'll feel used and bitter. But they should be friendly and appreciative and perhaps ply you with your favorite coffee.

If you donate to a good charity, you are doing a good and important thing. You want to reward that kind of behavior - even when it's yourself that you're rewarding.

Of course, you know your own limits better than you know other people's, so you can press yourself farther than you would press someone else. And you know whether you're likely to err on the side of giving too much or too little. But whichever one it is, treat yourself like a valued donor.

So next time you make a donation, celebrate. Give yourself a nap, a croissant, a beer, a long bath, a special meal – whatever would feel good. If you tend towards burnout, a treat after donating will give you some respite. If you tend towards hoarding, it will help remind you that giving can be a pleasure. Either way, positive reinforcement is a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment