What do donors want?

Most Civil Society Organizations collect only a fraction of what they could, at least according to Ron Schiller, a seasoned US fundraiser with vast experience in the area. The reasons why this happens are varied and usually related to the ignorance of proven practices.

According to Schiller, one of the most common mistakes when raising funds is focusing only on the organization itself, its needs, goals, and timelines. Those who work in Civil Society tend to talk about themselves all the time and what they need, oblivious to the fact that donors have their own objectives and interests, and are more interested in knowing how the needs of the organization articulate with their own.

Recent studies support this approach. A survey conducted in 2016 by US Trust and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy * found that when choosing who to support, 78% of large donors rely on their own values, while only 6% do so because a presentation or speech “convinced them”. However, few organizations take the trouble to ask about donors: What are their objectives? What do they want to achieve? The most successful organizations, according to Schiller, are those that offer donors the opportunity to achieve what they set out to do.

As a fundraiser for the University of Chicago, Schiller obtained eight figure funds because he took the time to learn what a donor partner wanted. Knowing this, the university formulated an adequate project according to their needs.

The error that Schiller considers the most serious is related to the above: considering donors as simple money givers. Organizations, he explains, often don’t allow donors to become true allies of their work, afraid to give them too much influence. And so they see the fundraiser as a solicitor and not as a facilitator, someone who allows donors to give with confidence so that both can jointly achieve something that none could on their own.