Questions from donors – Are you ready with answers?

Donors have choices – lots of them.

Your organization is probably one of dozens that members of your community will hear from in the coming weeks.  Are you doing all that you can to set yourself apart from the “competition?”  Are you giving your potential donors the resources they need to make an informed choice?

Charity Navigator advocates that all potential donors take the time to ask charities questions about their programs, mission, and goals before they decide to support them. To help potential donors in this task, they have developed a list of questions that donors should ask before they begin the act of supporting a charity.

Regardless of what you might think about Charity Navigator – and I know many people struggle with the limitations of their rating system – these questions provide organizations a very helpful tool that can enhance their donor cultivation strategies. 

If you are an executive director, director of development, board member or other solicitor, are you prepared with answers to these or similar questions?  You know this is the advice being given to potential donors out there; change your approach to align your message with these issues.  Be ready to respond to the donor’s needs, not simply return to your organization’s pre-determined script. 

It’s like taking an exam when you were in school…except this time you know the questions ahead of time!

Here is an excerpt from Charity Navigator’s “6 Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating:”

  1. Can your charity clearly communicate who they are and what they do?
    If a charity struggles in articulating its mission and its programs, it will probably struggle in delivering those programs. If a charity can’t explain who it is and what it does, and why it is needed, find one that can. The stakes are too high and too many good organizations exist who know exactly who they are, what they do, and why they are needed.
  2. Can your charity define their short-term and long-term goals?
    Organizations without quantifiable goals have no way to measure success. If they have no way to know if they are successful, how can you be sure they are working toward something? Demand that your charity tell you what it is trying to do. Good organizations relish this opportunity.
  3. Can your charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal?
    Once again, it’s not enough to merely be concerned with a problem. Ask your organization what it has done to make the issue it confronts better. What are its results? You wouldn’t buy a brand of toothpaste if the manufacturer couldn’t prove to you that it fought cavities successfully. Why should you support an environmental clean-up organization if it can’t show you that it is cleaning up the environment?
  4. Do your charity’s programs make sense to you?
    If you support the mission of an organization, ask yourself if its programs also make sense. You believe in the cause, and you hope for the end result, but is the organization working toward that result in a way that seems rational and productive to you?
  5. Can you trust your charity?
    Research has shown that the overwhelming majority of charities in this country are not only responsible and honest, but well-managed. So we give with confidence. You should feel the same way before you give. Don’t support a charity until you feel comfortable with it. A happy and trusting donor is a willing and supportive donor.
  6. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to your organization?
    We like to think of giving to charity as a long-term commitment, more akin to marriage than dating. Intelligent giving is motivated by altruism, knowledge, and perspective, not a knee-jerk reaction to a television commercial. Ask yourself if your charity is the type of organization to which you’re willing to make a long-term commitment. When you do this, you agree to support them through good times and bad, and provide the funding it needs to weather economic downturns. In return, it promises to continue working toward addressing the issue you both think is so vital.

Charity Navigator

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Filed under Philanthropy and Fundraising

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