There is a house for sale in my neighborhood. The realtor is an old friend. I walk past his sign every day, think of him, and smile.
On my walk this morning, the wind had knocked the sign off its hooks. I stopped, re-assembled it, and walked on.
Instantly, I wondered, “If that wasn’t Jim’s sign, would I have fixed it?” And I confess the answer was that I probably would not have. And I smiled to think that a different realtor, at a different house, with a different sign – she probably cares as much about the properties she sells as Jim cares about his clients. And her friends and family probably care about her as much as I care about Jim. Yet I probably would not have fixed her sign, simply because I do not know her. I don’t care about her. But I care about my friend Jim.
Another story comes to mind – I believe it was one of Saul Alinsky’s – about the importance of connecting. Here is my recollection of the example Alinsky gave:
If I were scheduled to give a talk, and I died prior to giving that talk, there might be a notice in the paper. You might think, “Saul Alinsky – I was to going to go hear him. What a shame.” And that would be that.
But if I had given that talk, and you had been in the audience, and then I had died afterwards, your thoughts would be very different. “Oh goodness no! I just saw him last week. He talked about this and about that – he was wonderful! I cannot believe he is gone!” You would have felt a connection. I would be the same person, and I would still be dead. But your feelings would be different.
Connection matters. And the more engaged that connection, the more it matters.
Which is what makes me crazy about all the talk of a 2% return on a cold direct mailing. Or a golf tournament as a ‘friendraiser’ because all these people now know about the organization.
Engaged connections are what make us act. Engaged connections are what make us care more about the speaker we saw – even though he was only a guy on a stage – than the speaker that died before we could see him. Engaged connections are the difference between fixing my friend Jim’s sign, and my likely not fixing the sign of a stranger.
I have written a lot about the power of Community Engagement – the power of engaging people directly in the work we are doing to make a better world, a better place to live – the power of making real friends.
I have written a lot about the ridiculous notion that a golf tournament (or any other event, for that matter) will ‘raise friends,’ when no, what it will do is take a ton of work to raise one-time money from people you will likely never see again – people who likely didn’t buy the ticket, but had it gifted to them by the real donor – the one who doesn’t have time nor the inclination to show up at yet another event.
The transactional view of friendship [states], “If you give us money, we will be your friend. If we think you will give us money, we will court you as our friend. If you fail to give us money, we will eventually stop calling you. The more money you give us, the more friendly we will be.”
And unfortunately, what that means is that our organizations do not have friends. We may have donors. We may have attendees at an event. We may even have a great ROI on a mailing.
But we do not have friends.
Friends are there for you, no matter what. Friends volunteer, and friends make connections for you, and friends lend you their truck, and friends do all that because they feel a connection to you and to the work you are doing to make your community a better place to live.
And yes, friends will also give you money.
But just as in real life, that’s not what a friend is – someone who gives you money. It is someone who cares. Someone who would feel pain if something bad happened to the work you are trying to do. Someone who feels that your mission is their mission. Someone who will work to ensure that mission is accomplished!
The truth is that a cold direct mail piece cannot make a friend. To make a friend, you need to make an engaged connection.
Turning Donors Into Friends
Today, right now – list all your donors. Sort them by dollar gift. Take the top 1/4 of those donor names, and set them aside. If you are like most organizations, you are already engaging those folks plenty. (If you give us money, we will be your friend. The more money you give us, the more friendly we will be…)
Now look at the other 3/4 of your existing donors – the ones you pretty much ignore except to send them more mailings asking for more money.
And starting from the bottom up – yup, from the $5 donor and the $10 donor – call each one of them, until you are done. Take the week. Take the month. Call each one and say Thank You.
Call and ask if they would like to take a tour of your facility.
Call and ask if they would like to have coffee, so you can learn more about their feelings about your community’s issues, and your community’s potential.
If yours is an arts or education organization – perhaps a museum or a symphony – call and ask if they would like free passes to your latest exhibit, or your latest performance. You weren’t sold out anyway, so why not show the people who care about you that you care back?
NOT because they will give you money. But because that’s what friends do. Friends say thank you. Friends call when they DON’T want anything. Friends give as much as they take. Friends call just to say, “I am glad you are in my life.”
Yes, your next mailing will likely net you more dollars from friends than from just plain ‘donors.’ But that’s not the point. The point is that you will be building an army of friends, who can help you with the real work – the work of making your community an incredible place to live.
For that, you will need more than just donors.
For that, you will need friends.
You’ll find 100 more strategies for making REAL friends in FriendRaising: Community Engagement Strategies for Boards Who Hate Fundraising but Love Making Friends – read more here.