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From A Donor's Perspective

It is all about the donors. We are the donor’s advocates – everything we do is to ensure they are thanked in a timely and meaningful way; that they understand how their generosity is having an impact; that their gifts are spent as they intended; and that they are honored, recognized, and engaged. But how often do we get to sit with a group of donors and talk with them about why they give?

Last week at UC Davis we did just that. We invited several donors to join us for a panel discussion to share their philanthropy stories.

Our donor relations team does a great job of stewarding donors but we also have colleagues on our main campus and health system campus that assist us in our efforts. And, some of these folks have never even met or interacted with a donor. Thus the idea of the donor panel discussion was born. We wanted our colleagues to understand who our donors are and why they give.

So we invited our colleagues to join us so they could hear directly from the donors. Our hope was to draw a few dozen colleagues and instead we had nearly 70 people RSVP. We had major gift officers, planned giving officers, senior management, program leads, marketing professionals, prospect researchers, data analysts, and administrative assistants in attendance. They all wanted the chance to hear from our donors and to ask their own questions.

Our donors were candid and provided great insight. We asked many questions that helped prove that our efforts are working and learned that we have some more work to do in other areas. Here are a few questions we asked:

  • What inspired your first gift to UC Davis?

  • What is the most meaningful way you have ever been thanked for a gift and why?

  • Do you feel you know the impact of your gift?

  • What would inspire you to give again?

  • What is the most meaningful way you have ever been recognized for making a gift to UC Davis or any other charity and why?

  • How could we more deeply engage you in the life of our university?

We also allowed members of the audience to ask questions and it was great to see how many came with prepared questions.

The panel discussion was a wonderful win-win-win scenario. The donor relations team won because we received real-time feedback from our donors and we provided a value-added experience for our colleagues. It was also a win for our donors – they loved the format and felt very engaged. They want to help us do our work better so they felt very valued and heard. And finally our colleagues won because they had the unique opportunity to hear from donors about what is important to them and why.

Have you done anything like this at your organization? If so, what were the outcomes? Leave a comment and share your experience with us. If you haven't had an honest and open discussion with your donors, I hope you will consider doing a panel at your organization – if for no other reason than to give your donors a chance to share their stories. I think you be very surprised by how willing they are to participate, and much they'll teach and inspire you and your colleagues along the way.

This post was written by DRG Group member, Angie Joens.


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