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This Is Why It’s Important to Set Major Donor Expectations Up Front

Babe Ruth was a failure.  It wasn’t unusual for him to strike out.  In fact, he struck out 1,330 times in his career.  His lifetime batting average of .342 meant he didn’t hit the ball nearly 66% of the time he came up to bat.  How does someone who misses the mark 66% of the time become as legendary as Babe Ruth?

To the uninitiated, a .342 batting average sounds low.  In order to be impressed, you would need to know that Babe Ruth’s .342 average is tied for the ninth best batting average of all time.  Add in his unheard of 714 career homeruns and The Babe became the legend we know today.

It’s all about Setting Expectations.  This is why it’s important to set major donor expectations up front.

If you don’t set expectations with your donors, they may be left to their own devices…making assumptions that are not in your favor or based in reality.  Here are two examples:

  1. Interpreting Program Impact

    Several of my clients over the years have been homeless shelters providing rehabilitation services.  Homeless rehabilitation is a very challenging problem to tackle.  Years of childhood abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, low job skills, and other factors compete against the goals of rehabilitation.  Thus, for some populations, a success rate that looks like Babe Ruth’s batting average would be something to celebrate.   However, how is a donor to know that if you don’t tell them?

  2. Determining Gift Amount

    I am working on a capital campaign where a high net worth (HNW) prospective lead donor is not showing interest in meeting face to face.  That makes it very hard to ask the donor for $500,000.  So the donor is now “thinking” about his gift. Which begs the question, what gift is he thinking about?  Heaven forbid if he is thinking about a $50,000 gift when the campaign team is hoping for ten times that.  Thus, we wrote a proposal and dropped it off at his office.   Again, it is critical that we help set the expectation for the donor.  Will the donor give $500,000?  I don’t know.  However, with the proposal in hand, the donor now knows the scope of the project and our request.

Without intentionally setting expectations, major donors will wander around in left field and come up with their own conclusions.  In some cases, the donor will make judgments in your favor.  However, sometimes those donors will make a decision based on inaccurate information or assumptions.  They may even look at your batting average and see a failure, when in fact it is something to be celebrated. Maybe even legendary.

Instead, help your donors by setting expectations early and often.  Share your results and qualify the results with supporting information.  Ask for a specific gift in clear language.  Why leave it to chance?

Fundraising results not meeting your expectations?  The Dickerson, Bakker & Associates Major Gift Program will not only help you set expectations but achieve them.  Contact us today.

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