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  • Sharron Batsch

What a High Value Donor Thinks Part II

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Batsch Group (BG) sat down today with a High Value Donor (HVD), who has played many different roles in our community and in Canada. Some of those roles included CEO of a Melcor Developments, Chancellor of the University of Alberta from 2012 – 2016, a Board member, a fundraiser and as a donor. These are just a few of his community activities, which makes him the perfect person to ask about his perspectives on giving.

Please meet Ralph Young (RY)and hear what he has to say.

BG: How do you choose the charities you wish to support?

RY: First, it is the cause.

Next, it is believing that our contribution will bring value.

Finally, I like to see it’s working, so feedback is important.

BG: As a developer, what are your thoughts about the foundation that supports a building?

RY: Well, without a strong foundation, the building doesn’t stand.

BG: What are your thoughts about charities and their organizational foundation?

RY: Well, we have worked on many not-for-profit projects and found that their foundations are often dysfunctional. Staff members change, and often little is known on what has been committed or what will happen with donor’s wishes, leaving it in question. There has to be accountability by the organization to donors.

BG: Accountability is important. You have mentioned several times today.

RY: Acknowledgement is nice, too. Don’t forget us once the gift has been received.

BG: Are you suggesting that once the gift is received, charities forget about you?

RY: It’s nice to hear from charity staff. They could take a moment to just drop a line, maybe a quick card signed by someone who has worked with you. This keeps our interest and shows the charity understands we are more than the gift.

Note to readers: What is being expressed here is relationship building and how a charity can maintain a donor’s interest in how projects are proceeding.

I once heard a fundraiser say they wanted to make friends with donors. Our position is donors are not your friends they are collaborators supporting a common cause.

We also heard a comment from a young fundraiser who had worked for one of the cancer charities. They bragged that they had acquired so many gifts in kind for an event that they didn’t even bother thanking the donors. If you were the donor what would you think?

RY: The problem is staff change so often. It is hard to build a relationship. I am working with a Foundation and I thought the development staff worked well, but they have all left.

BG: The level of disorganization can affect staff morale. It’s hard to be successful when you spend most of your time looking for information or trying to build a donor profile so you can be credible when you meet with a donor.

RY: Another area is reporting. I have often received very glossy reports but something simpler with more content would be useful.

BG: Would you consider donating to a charity where they run a chaotic organization?

RY: It would depend, but chaos and a lack of discipline would be a consideration.

BG: What do you think of a form of certification for a charity which supports how it works to successfully deliver its programs, and which cannot be undone by every new staff member.

RY: I think it’s a good idea.

BG: Ralph, thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts, your suggestions and some of your frustrations!

Summary Comments

The charitable sector manages billions of dollars annually. In Canada, CRA has some oversight, but what about oversight related to how the charity runs internally. A chaotic environment, run by often untrained staff, who are responsible for donor management practices puts the charity and its funding dollars at risk. What if a charity could say to prospective donors:

  1. We have an annual training budget and all staff engaged with fund development are required to be fully trained.

  2. We have an organizational strategy for all electronic tools, so access to our resources is seconds, not minutes or hours.

  3. Senior managers all participate in adding to our organizational history.

  4. Fund development managers can use the donor management software and collaborate with data entry to ensure all campaigns and appeals are properly defined.

  5. The charity has specific policies and practices for all forms of data management, which we adhere to allowing for corrective actions where needed.

  6. We invest in continuous improvement but all within the context of our current methods of information management.

  7. Our investment in these methods has continued to improve our productivity and our charitable dollars.

  8. Staff change will no longer put the charity at risk as our methods and policies have enabled us to continue work regardless of change.

  9. We have developed a High Performance work environment to achieve our goals and maintain high performance staff.

  10. We have more time to invest in building relationships with our valued donors, so we are a true donor-centric organization.

Batsch Group Inc

Authors of From Chaos to Control Build a High Performance Team Using Knowledge Management

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