In the midst of the controlled and at times, the uncertain world of fundraising, strategies can lose their footing.  At times you can loose focus on the right things, the big feelings, when it comes to engaging your donors and ultimately meeting your, and their fundraising goals.   We can become so embedded in our work, which can have huge benefits, like knowing the work intently, and being passionate about helping it to succeed. But that can lead to some considerable mistakes when thinking about how we can relate to our donors, such as putting too much emphasis on our own perspectives of the work, making assumptions about what donors care about, but even thinking that donors care as much about process (i.e. how we go about our work) as opposed to why we do it.   Of course, what different groups of donors care about and want to donate to can vary hugely, but what it often comes down to is that your donors want to feel something. When your donors are choosing to make a significant contribution, that stop-and-think gift we often talk about in major gift fundraising, those feelings are going to be big.

So what are these big feelings I’m talking about?   When approaching donors about giving to a program or project, you typically want your donors to experience an emotional arc that leads to the result that they, and you, want to see.  Here are some of the key big feelings within that arc that you might be wanting to focus on.   Those big feelings might start with deep concern, sadness, despair, or even outrage, with regard to the need that you, as an organization, seek to address.  People need to know that without some sort of intervention, the impact is dire and a strategy is needed. When you communicate with your donors, are you painting a strong enough picture of the need that demonstrates to them that the situation is serious?  If not, why should your donors care about the solution? (if you are struggling to paint that picture, take a look at this post, or get in touch).   Perhaps another feeling is relief, when you offer a solution to the problem that you have outlined.  When people are significantly moved by a situation, they naturally want to know how it is going to be dealt with.  This is where you, and they, come in with the perfect solution, and one that is transformative.   What if your donors aren’t feeling that sense of relief?  Maybe it’s because you haven’t made the link between need and solution clearly enough, or your solution doesn’t feel transformative enough.  Is it obvious to your donor how you are meeting the need identified, or are you baffling them with jargon?   The next emotional response might be feeling driven to do something, or to be involved in some way.  This is the perfect opportunity to let your donors know what they can do to contribute to bringing about the solution you have identified (i.e. to make a donation). More importantly, you want to let your donors know that this solution won’t be put in place without them, and that this contribution is not just a “nice to have”.  In fact, they are a vital cog in the wheel of this whole process that will make amazing change happen.   The next feeling might be elation.  There is no doubt that when done right, giving feels really good, but only if you ensure that giving is a good experience for your donor.  That means:

  • Thanking them in the right way. Sometimes, that means a generic thank you just won’t cut it.  How can you make sure you thank your donors in a way that ensures that they feel truly valued?
  • Letting them know about the impact their funding is having. Throughout the process of focusing on the big feelings, you have been setting the scene for the impact that the donor can have.  Now that they have done that, you need to fulfil your promise and make sure that not only the change you have promised happens, but that you report back on this change.

Ownership The next of the big feelings that you might want your donor to feel is ownership.  When donors feel that they, in part at least, own the success that you are having, they become engaged, excited and motivated. This is when you know you are building a strong attachment between your donors and your organization.  Maintain this motivation and relationship by keeping them up to date, regularly, with how the project is progressing.  Your consistent communication is key and your donors will be more excited about their involvement when they hear how well you are working towards your goals. Radio silence is not appreciated and leaves your donors wondering what happened with their money.   This might require a level of transparency that you might not be used to, but as long as your messaging is carefully handled, it can play an important part in building an authentic relationship with your donors, and grow the trust between you.

Need help with developing your stewardship strategy? Click here for my FREE stewardship checklist!

Getting ourselves ready to meet your donors’ emotional needs How do we prepare the ground work to ensure that all these big feelings are happening?  How can we prepare ourselves, ensuring that our donors get what they need, emotionally, from their interactions with us?

  • Get to know your donors. No matter what your organization is trying to raise funds for, chances are the better you know your donors, what they care about, and what their motivations are, you are going to figure out what makes them tick. As I mention, what motivates you might not motivate them. Make sure you really know your donors’ perspectives on your work and your impact so that you know how to communicate effectively with them.


  • Have a great Case for Support that focuses upon bringing out the big feelings. That means that you are articulating your need well, are clear on the solution, and the donor’s role in bringing this solution about.  By putting some good thought into this, and getting it on paper, you can ensure that you are taking your donors on the emotional journey that they are looking for.


  • Develop a donor stewardship plan. When dealing with a lot of donors, it can be so easy for some donors to fall through the cracks.  By building a great donor stewardship plan, that considers all your groups of donors, you can ensure that you keep your donors with you for the long -term.

Similar Blogs: Top 10 donor stewardship “rules” to ensure that your fundraising thrives Personalised giving – the key to better donor engagement How to have impact in your Case for Support by avoiding the process trap

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