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Loving Your Donors

Resource Center - Foundation

by Michael Bowman

bowman 200x174I live and breathe raising funds, and I fully, completely love raising our three kids.  But sometimes I just need a break, which is how I found myself watching Jeopardy.  Now, as you know, Jeopardy is a television game show for very smart people.  Smart people—geniuses—appear on Jeopardy.  And smart people watch Jeopardy (or so I like to think).

Much to my bemusement, on this particular evening I watched Jeopardy contestants flail about, desperately trying to avoid the "Country Music Duets" category as long as they possibly could.  They risked losing thousands of dollars due to their profound lack of knowledge of country music.  By contrast, they were tearing through the category on “The Canterbury Tales.” 

That is, until Alex read out this question from The Canterbury Tales:  The Prioress wore a brooch with a Latin inscription, whose English translation is _____ CONQUERS ALL. 

No one could answer the question.   I was shocked.  A panel of geniuses, and they didn’t get it.   It was painful to watch.  

And here’s the thing: sometimes we fundraisers don't get it.  Are there not times in our own organizations when we have forgotten to remind ourselves and our teams of that key truth—love conquers all—in the context of relating to donors in our fundraising and events?

To love your donors the chances are very high you will need to change your marketing mix.  To love your donors you will need to get your hands and your fingernails dirty at your events, and at other people's events.   Loving your donors is both philosophical, and yet, tactical. 

My friend Tom Jackson lives in Nashville.  He tells his artists they need to love their audiences, and to be bold in that loving.  To be as bold as love.  And then he teaches them how.

Why do I insist upon you loving your donors?  Clearly, our work as fundraisers is not merely to raise funds.  As someone said to me recently, giving is closely related to loving, in every aspect of life.  And this was not a professional fundraiser. 

In our profession, what better quality than love could we possibly want giving closely related to?  We need to be demonstrating love to our supporters, our stakeholders, our vendors, our staff. 

Is this too esoteric?  Too impractical?  In life, we have marriage counsellors for loving spouses, family counsellors for loving families, counsellors taking years to convince people to love themselves.  Who at your office is exhorting you to love your donors?   This is about the difference between "selling to get" versus "giving to love." 

One day as I was driving my three kids to school, my six-year-old asked me:  "Why do you have to work?"  "Well," I said, "That's how we own a house, buy groceries, pay for the know."  "Oh," she responded from the backseat.  "I thought it was to help people."

Wrong answer, Daddy.  But one to grow on.

Michael Bowman is the President of 145 Live Solutions. For just under twenty years,  he has enjoyed leading national sales and marketing initiatives via the media of print, digital, radio, television, talent relation, and events.  He recently spoke on the topic “Loving your audience: How to build relationships at events”, at a luncheon hosted by the AFP South Eastern Ontario Chapter.  Contact him at

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