top of page

What is on your donors' and volunteers' wish lists?

What is on your wish list this holiday season?

A few years ago, I got into the habit of keeping running wish lists on Amazon and Evernote. It used to be that my mom would ask me for my Christmas wish list around mid-October. I could never think of anything on the spot. Now, I just point her to my Amazon wish list. Or, for things that she can't buy on Amazon, I send her some ideas from my Evernote list.

My sisters are great about keeping their Amazon wish lists current and that's been awesome for gift-giving. They live in other states and we are together on Christmas only every other year. Now, I simply find something on their Amazon wish lists and have the gifts wrapped and shipped directly to them (and it's free with Prime!).

My wife is another story. She believes Amazon cheapens and degrades the gift-buying/gift-giving experience and she refuses to keep a wish list there.

One of the great truths of marriage is that we cannot change our partners (and should not try if we truly love them). So, after accepting this great truth a few years ago, I started my own running list of gift ideas for Tracy. Every time she mentions something she'd like, I add it to my gift ideas list in Evernote. When Christmas, her birthday, or Mother's Day roll around, I go to the list to find the right gift idea for the occasion.

Over the years, I've discovered that it is far more enjoyable and much more fun to keep a gift ideas list for Tracy than it is to keep up my own wish list.

It is truly "more blessed to give than to receive!"

It is a common practice among small nonprofits to keep and publish wish lists--things donors can either buy for the organization or fund with cash donations. For example, if you run an urban gardening nonprofit, your wish list might include things like rakes, seeds, shovels, and maybe even something like a tool shed. Donors might either buy the items for you or send you cash to buy them yourself.

Could there be any more effective way to connect with your donors and make the value of your work tangible to them?

I think there is, and it's a lot like the running gift idea list I keep for my wife.

Have you ever tried to make a wish list from your donors' and volunteers' points of view?

Your donors and volunteers are coming to you for a reason. It has less to do with you and more to do with them. Your donors and volunteers are going through their lives with mental "wish lists" in the form of aspirations, dreams, hopes, self-actualization needs, and values. They don't come to your small nonprofit to check off items on your wish list. They come to you because you help them check off items on their own wish lists.

The most powerful thing you can do as a small nonprofit leader is become intimately familiar with the wish lists your donors and volunteers carry about with them as they go about their lives. When you understand what motivates them to give to you in the first place, you can tune and fine tune your appeal ("promise of a wish fulfilled") and your follow-through ("wish fulfillment"). Yes, your small nonprofit is in the wish fulfillment business!

A wish of mine is that small nonprofit leaders would invest less energy, money, and time on gimmicks and the latest fundraising fads and more energy, money, and time on understanding their donors and volunteers.

This means the almost-daily practice of imagining yourself as your donor or volunteer: Living their lives, seeing the world as they see the world, taking in messages the way they take in messages. Who do your donors and volunteers wish to be in this life and in this world? What are their deepest longings--needs that arise from their souls? What inspires them? Motivates them? At what point does giving money or time seem like a small price to pay for the fulfillment of a wish that comes from deep inside?

When it comes to fundraising, you can burn up tremendous energy, money, and time trying to persuade people to support you.

Or you can save energy, money, and time by figuring out what your donors and volunteers are already trying to persuade themselves. Discover their wish lists, and you discover a way to raise money and time without the need for persuasion. They've already persuaded themselves; all you have to do is show them that what you have for them is what they truly want. Then, make it easy for them to give to you in order to get it.

Here's what I want you to do today: Set aside about 30 minutes. Get a legal pad and pen. Ask yourself what groups emerge from your donors and volunteers. For example, at Voices for Earth Justice, our donors and volunteers fall into three main groups: 1) Catholic women of the Baby Boomer generation, 2) Millennial environmental activists who are big on Detroit, and 3) Professionals (clergy, environmental scientists, and professors) of the Baby Boomer generation. Most of these folks live in or near metro Detroit.

What groups emerge from your donors and volunteers? Write each of these groups at the top of a piece of notebook paper. Draw a line down the middle.

Then, spend a few minutes "getting inside the heads and hearts" of the people in each group. Who do they aspire to be in life? What are their deepest needs for fulfillment and self-actualization? What inspires and motivates them? What are the looking for to help them meet these needs?

Write these in the left column.

Now you've got the beginning of a wish list for each of your donor/volunteer groups.

Use these wish lists to start thinking about what your small nonprofit can give each of these groups to fulfill their wishes. Write these ideas in the right column next to the wishes in the left column.

This little exercise will not only help you think of stronger fundraising and volunteer recruitment appeals, it will help you plan communication, programs, and projects that delight and inspire your supporters.

Go ahead and give this a try today. It only takes a little bit of time. Then please let me and the rest of us know how the exercise goes by posting in the Facebook group.

Onward and upward!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 4.35_edited.png
bottom of page