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  • Sharron Batsch

Cultivating Your Donors

I have always loved to garden. It offers a beautiful sanctuary just outside our backdoor. A garden can be analogous to a charity and its donors. When we began our garden, we had a plan, and that plan is still evident in our garden's 30th year. There have been some subtle changes, but the plan has maintained the structure of the original vision. I think this is true of a charity where there may be changes to the delivery of information but its mission and commitment to its clients and donors remains constant. Plants take on the role of donors for our story to continue.

A plant, much like a donor, begins by being introduced to a charity or garden. With time, a plant can either flourish or it may wither. One that grows well is attended to. Additional factors, like its environment, enhance its ability to contribute to the beauty of a garden. Donors are nurtured through communication and stewardship. Speaking to a donor's area of interest increases their commitment and as committed donors, they contribute to the charity's viability. When donors are looked at only as a financial opportunity, their interest may wither and be a loss to the charity. We wrote about the case of the philanthropist who gave a generous gift for a specific project. His comment during our interview was that once the money had changed hands, it was like he no longer mattered. He said that receiving a note on the project's progress, signed by someone he had spoken with to secure the gift would have been nice. We have worked at understanding the needs of our garden. Knowing how to address its care has given us wonderful, gratifying results. I believe it to be the same for a charity's valued donors. It takes time and commitment for both to be successful. Issues will arise when the initial vision is lost through staff change where new people may or may not understand the importance of how to nurture a donor and their commitment. Plants, much like donors, succumb when forgotten or taken for granted. To all our kindred spirits, may your donor strategies reflect the care you would give your garden so that they too understand the important role they play in helping a charity be vibrant while meeting its goals and commitments.

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