Should you invite your donors to visit your programs? How open should the doors of your nonprofit be?
We’re not talking about a donor appreciation event here, or another fundraising gala. The question is, should you give the person who has donated to your organization the chance to see the organization at work, and how?
Yes, Invite Them In
Tina Jepson of Causevox has suggested:
Allow donors to get to know your organization on a more personal, intimate level by offering a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit operations with a tour, lunch and learn program, etc.
(This is #13 on her list of 20 thank-you ideas your nonprofit can try. Check out the whole list!)
In truth, the only way you can receive 100 percent feedback and emotional ties is by having someone visit your organizational facilities to meet the cast of those in your organizational orbit.
I have to agree, too. Donor appreciation events are fine–and they give the donors the chance to meet one another, so they double as networking events. That’s a tangible way to say “thanks” to your donors!
But appreciation events are separate from the daily life of your nonprofit. Attending those events won’t let the people who support your organization see their gifts in action.
And seeing that is what will motivate them to make that next gift.
Not So Fast!
Before you rush to propose to your organization that you open the doors, however, think about it from the program staff point of view.
Bringing donors in to observe the program could disrupt what you’re supposed to be doing with and for the clients that day.
It could thrust staff into a role they haven’t prepared for and don’t feel good about performing.
It could be a liability issue, if there’s any chance the donors could harm or be harmed. Or it could backfire. Let’s be honest: not every day in the life of your nonprofit is something you’d like donors to carry around with them when they think about their donation dollars at work.
At the very least, it’s going to create extra work. So, if you’re going to invite donors to visit, the way you bring them in is crucial. There needs to be something in it for the staff and the program participants, too!
How to Open Your Doors and Be Happy
Here’s one of the best suggestions I’ve heard for how to bring your donors to the programs: Have a volunteer day.
Figure out something that actually needs doing (not a make-work project). Invite donors to pitch in along with staff and clients to get it done. Give them chances to relax and just talk together.
You, the development officer, should circulate, make introductions, and answer questions as they come up. Take a moment somewhere along the way to thank the donors for what they have already given and what they are giving today, by showing up.
If you have a client who wants to tell his or her story, give them a chance. But please, don’t micro-manage the event. The donors are not there to see you. They’ve come to see what a good organization they’re supporting, and feel good about themselves.
Have you already invited your donors to volunteer at your organization? What advice would you share about planning ahead and making the day a happy one?