The Goldie Company

20 Tips to Effectively Work with Devout Donors

Thursday July 5, 2012

By Noel Draper

People who attend church regularly and/or have strong religious beliefs donate more and volunteer more often; we know this intuitively as fundraisers and this fact is supported by the statistics. According to new research from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) in the United Kingdom, religious people donate more than twice the amount to charity than those without a faith. Given this wonderful propensity to give, fundraisers need to learn more about these generous people and seek to improve interactions with them. Often it is the little things we do or neglect to do that make or break a relationship. What follows is ten tips on what not to do when interacting with devote people, and ten tips on what you can do to strengthen that relationship on behalf of your charity.

What inspires devout people towards generosity? It is the values and principles ingrained in them through their faith. For the devout donor, doing good is about doing God’s will.

Devout people dislike the idea that charity is an exchange. They look down upon individuals who give with a benefit in mind, or whose motives are not completely selfless. For them, charity is a moral duty, regardless of income. Everyone should try to better society but the wealthy should shoulder a greater share of the burden. Trust is important to a devout person. They want to trust the charity and its staff and they in turn expect the charity to trust them. Therefore, they are likely to listen to their peers and spiritual leaders for an endorsement of your charity.

Don’t: (What to avoid saying and doing)

  1. Don’t assume all donors are the same, what works with one “religious person” may not work with another. KYD – know your donor
  2. Don’t assume all religions are the same or equal. While many religious people are tolerant and accepting of other religions, they are very aware of the differences between them so ensure that you do not lump all religions together.
  3. Don’t initiate small talk about religion. It is serious and personal. If you are comfortable encouraging them in their faith and can do so sincerely, do so. Otherwise, do not pretend you know what they believe. If you are interested ask them about their religion, many are interested in sharing, but only ask if you are sincerely interested in hearing their answers.
  4. Don’t put down other beliefs, even if they do, you don’t need to agree. Some devout believes are not tolerant of other religions. You do not need to agree with them and you do not need to argue with them either.
  5. Don’t correct their religious views. You are not meeting with them to correct their beliefs but rather to talk about your mutual interest in your charity, so stick to the goal.
  6. Don’t espouse universalism, “everyone is good and goes to heaven.” This is not a belief held by many devout donors, so avoid it.
  7. Don’t break the commandments in your meeting. The third of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Many Christians consider the phrase “Oh my God” to be in violation of this command and are offended by it.
  8. Don’t discuss controversial topics: abortion, death penalty, same sex marriage…
  9. Don’t assume they have a particular political point of view because of their religious background, devote donors support a wide range of political views.
  10. Don’t practice hypocrisy within your organization. If your mission is to care for the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society, don’t abuse your staff. If it is to advocate, then listen and give others even within your organization a voice.

Do: (What to emphasize)

  1. Listen. It builds trust.
  2. Offer appropriate recognition, being aware many devout people prefer to give anonymously. They do not necessarily want to be highlighted; rather, they appreciate equal attention for everyone.
  3. Allow for public endorsement. Since devout donors want the organization to receive public appreciation for its works, present their recognition as a means for them to publicly endorse the charity and thereby help the charity accomplish its mission.
  4. Respect their religious beliefs and allow them to respect yours.
  5. Observe dietary restrictions. Substitute asparagus for ham in your omelet, eat fish on Fridays during Lent, or serve Halal meat. Know what is appropriate.
  6. Use key terminology: blessing, thankfulness, calling, hope, creation care, purpose, mission, responsibility. “Grace” is what many groups call a short prayer before a meal. Invite your devoted donors to say grace before you eat together in order to acknowledge their habits and encourage them to feel more comfortable.
  7. Use appropriate holiday greeting when possible “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa.” It is preferred to the generic “Happy Holidays.”
  8. Know that dates for holidays can be different. For example: Mon Jan 7, 2013 is Christmas Day for the Orthodox tradition because most Orthodox churches use the Julian rather than the Gregorian version of the Western calendar. As a result, they celebrate Christmas 13 days later than other Christian churches.
  9. Remember your goal. Your goal is to raise funds for the charity and you want to do this not by using the donor, but by reinforcing the mutual benefits. Stress the benefit to the recipient, your case for support, how much they are helping.
  10. Be gracious in how you treat all people including staff, donors, clients, volunteers. Consistency in treating all people with respect and overlooking offences will assist in relationship and peace building.

As you, the fundraiser, develop relationships with devout donors, these “don’ts” and “do’s” will become second nature. Ask for clarification and apologize if you offend. Most devout donors have a strong sense of community. If one person, especially one in leadership in his or her group, synagogue or congregation, sees the help he or she can provide to your charity, he or she can encourage others of like mind to get involved. Devout donors have a need and a desire to get involved, so encourage their involvement in a way that respects them as people and appreciates their differences. Interaction with all types of people develops you as a fundraiser and benefits your organization as well.