Do you have donors, or partners?

How engaged are your donors with your organization? How do you measure levels of engagement? Do you know if your donors feel like they are partners with your organization? That they are walking with you in your mission? Or, are they just giving because you have asked? And you are not confident how long that giving relationship will last?

Have you heard of the PEO model? This stands for participating, engaging and owning. Or, being a participant, being engaged, and being an owner. What is the difference? Best to explain by an example. Your church supports a food pantry, and the congregation is often asked to donate food. To make it easier, the church may even hand out special bags with lists of items most needed. Not much thought is needed; just use the bag and list while shopping. That is a participant, and non-profits need participants to keep the pantry shells full and people they want serve, supported. You decide to become more engaged with this pantry beyond just giving food and become a volunteer once a month with their food distribution and soup kitchen. You bring your children and feel good by having an opportunity to show your children the importance of doing good work in the community by service to others. It’s all good! And it IS all good. The pantry gains by this exposure that will help ensure their pantry stays open to be of service, and volunteers help with small operating budgets. You are engaged. Over time, you find that you want to do more. You are convinced that the service this pantry is providing is so vital and the need so great, that more could be served if you did more. And you do. You decide to make a commitment to approach five churches to become personally involved with the pantry with food and volunteer donations. You also decide to become a financial donor to the best of your ability. Eventually, you participate as well in a small capital campaign designed to expand the facilities to serve more and add program services and eventually, add the food pantry to your estate plans. You are clearly walking with the mission. You own the mission with your heart, your time and your financial ability.

Most donors will stay at the participant level, and that is fine! A challenge for every nonprofit is to identify ways that ALL donors have an opportunity – including being approached! – to becoming engaged. It is through these steps that a donor will claim ownership. Most will not; however, major gifts begin at the engaged level and is at that level that cultivation and education with your donors must go into higher gear. It is at the engaged level that a donor begins to feel they are walking with your mission, that they are a partner. This takes work, and having an efficient and user-friendly CRM is critical.

Betty K. Tonsing, Ph.D., CFRE
December, 2017

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