How to Make Every Donor Want to Give to You

Recently I was reading Marie Forleo’s How to Make Every Man Want You.

Why? Well, a friend recommended it, and I had been reading Marie’s blog for years, and had never read her book. So I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

It was a well written book, it kept my attention, and it had the sassy talk that Marie is so well known for. A lot of the advice seemed self explanatory but I did get a couple things out of it. One of the things she said was, “don’t go on and on about your family problems in the first meeting. Just go out to have fun.”

Another thing that Marie said was, “Engage with everyone around you, treat them all as if they’re worthy of attention and you will not believe how many people you will meet!”

Then she said, “Hey, update your hair, think about updating your makeup, dress sexier, everywhere! Because you’re here to have fun!” So I took that to heart.



But reading this book got me thinking-

How could we help every donor want to give to us?

Is that a too lofty goal?

Sure. It’s too lofty. But it’s something to think about how to become more attractive to our donors.

What would attract a donor?

Probably a lot of the same things that someone would look for in a dating context. But… larger.

First impressions

So, what’s the first thing a donor sees when they walk through the door?

Is your hallway beautiful?

Is your annual report prominently displayed there?

Are there comfy places to sit if they have to wait?

Is there a water cooler or a place to get tea or coffee so they can relax and hydrate?

Is there something on the wall that leads them to trust you, like a Guidestar logo, a CharityNavigator logo, or a picture of your E.D. with some prominent official?

Engaging everyone everywhere

This frankly sounds exhausting but hear me out.

Do you know how Harvey Milk became such a successful and popular figure as he raised money for political office in San Francisco in the 70s? He would introduce himself and say, “Hello, my name is Harvey Milk and I am here to convert you.”

You don’t have to be that bold. But how often do we try “not to disturb” people?

I noticed myself doing this in the supermarket yesterday. I was just avoiding people’s eyes, getting in, and getting out. And I thought, huh, how often do I do this?

What if I just gave a nod and a smile to people? I don’t have to engage them constantly, I just have to be a little bit kind. What if I engaged the supermarket checker and asked about their day and gave them a smile too?

What if you took a subset of $100-$150 donors and called them up and said hi? Or sent them a quick note?

I had a friend who went to 100 networking events in 2 months. I asked her what she learned from that, and she said, “How afraid people are to talk to each other.”

What if, the next time you went to a networking meeting, you went up to a couple random people and said hey?

Let’s play dress-up!


How do you dress up your nonprofit?

Do your communications show how you make an impact with real stories of people?

Do your communications highlight how your donors help, and make your donors the heroes?

This can go for your appeal letters, annual report, enewsletters, paper newsletters, brochures, and more.

And it can start with your marketing materials, but end with you.

Mazarine don’t tell me how to dress!

Okay, I am not telling you how to dress. Marie Forleo is. I’m going to hide behind her.

She says that when you dress up, whether it’s making your bed in the morning, or putting on something naughty under your clothes, it can make you feel better all day.

My boss wanted me to dress up a lot more in my last nonprofit job. Pantsuits like Hilary Clinton, is what he said.

Sigh. You have probably noticed that I am not a pantsuit kind of person.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with tossing the contents of my closet and just having a few pieces that make me feel good.

It felt good to clear out the clutter, but it really felt good when I started to wear some new things. I’ve never dressed to feel sexy on a consistent basis before. It… I dunno, it makes me feel like I’m out to have a good time. It makes me smile in the bathroom mirror.

Of course, I work from home, so I can dress how I want. I also know that if we all dressed sexy at work, it could have some negative consequences.  So, what’s a tip when you’re at work? Marie Forleo suggested looking at the What Not To Wear show to see some tips on how to dress better. I google image searched this and came up with some good advice just by looking at the pictures.

I do have a fundraising friend who has told me that if you wear makeup, people think that you… are worth more money?

This is what she says anyway. Maybe we could see a double blind study on this. It’s worth considering.

Keep it light

I used to have an E.D. who would bring up the history of fraud that the organization had, that was 10 years ago, and 5 executive directors ago, at speaking engagements. I personally heard him bring it up at least 3 times. I shuddered inside every time and wanted to ask him “why do you keep reminding people about this?” But I didn’t say anything. Because I wanted to keep my job.

So your cause is heavy and important and urgent. Or maybe your organization has a less than golden history. But the last thing donors want is to be brought down as soon as they meet you. You have to get in there in a friendly way. Eventually you can talk about shared values. But not initially.

Why not ask about their family? Their pets? How their day’s going? The weather?

If you’re nervous talking with them, think about how to distract yourself. Maybe feel your toes in your shoes.

While you’re doing this, if it’s culturally appropriate, think about looking deep into their eyes. What color are their eyes?

This can make a donor feel more heard than if you look down or away. (My usual choice!)

So when you’re out, doing speaking gigs, drumming up more interest and support in your cause, try opening with a light story, or a joke. You can get into the heavier stuff later.

But first off, show them you’re not there to should them to death, or to be dour or doom and gloomy. They deserve some of your sunshine. You can first show them how the world will be better, with their help.

Okay, that’s my synopsis of how to make every donor want to give to you. I’m sure there are lots of things I left out. Please feel free to add a few more in the comments!

If you’d like to learn more about how to find new donors, check out Secrets of Finding New Donors! On sale for just seven more days for $20 off!

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