For those who are unfamiliar, What Donors Want is a podcast by I.G. Advisors with a simple premise: to have fresh, dynamic (and slightly irreverent) conversations about major gifts fundraising with donors themselves. With past guests ranging from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Comic Relief and a range of major donors, our episodes are filled with unique
insights and tips from funders of varied perspectives.
At Convention, we had the extraordinary privilege of interviewing Sonal Sachdev Patel about her philanthropy at GMSP Foundation, and did so live in front of a large audience of major donor fundraisers. If you haven’t listened yet, the episode is now streaming on iTunes & Spotify, and here are three key takeaways.
1. Cultivating a donor is ‘like dating’
Joking aside – it’s true! Sonal spoke in detail about the helpful parallels between dating and major donor cultivation, noting the value of a personal introduction, the importance of facetime, the irreplaceable element of chemistry, and the strategic alignment required on both sides of the table to move forward. While it can feel tempting to rush an ask (especially if cashflow is tight), prioritising space for genuine, exploratory cultivation will ultimately have a much higher ROI for your organisation.
2 Don’t underestimate a ‘get-to-know-you’ grant
Sonal spoke in detail about her understanding that long-term, unrestricted support is instrumental for charities, however trust must be built before a commitment like this is made.
In her words, “we give a small flexible grant in the first year, and then use that opportunity to get to know [the organisation] better. If all goes well, it’s then that we enter into a longer-term relationship.”
This ‘get-to-know-you’ grant model is extremely common among funders so it’s important for charities to be mindful of this, and to always steward the potential of someone’s giving in this first, critical year.
3. Stewardship is not ‘one size fits all’
When asked about stewardship, Sonal emphasised how critical it is for charities to directly ask donors about their preferences, rather than making assumptions and applying a ‘one size fits all’ model. She acknowledged that while she knows some philanthropists love long reports and fancy galas, Sonal actually prefers WhatsApp updates and rarely attends events as she has
young children. As a general rule of thumb, donors will always appreciate if you ask them directly which stewardship experiences they’d prefer (and these might be simpler than you think).
Sonal’s fundraising advice throughout our interview was expert and invaluable, with more gems than could ever fit into one blog post. You can hear the entire conversation between me, I.G.’s Emily Collins-Ellis and Sonal by subscribing to What Donors Want on iTunes or Spotify.
And stay tuned for more episodes, with more donor insights, coming to your headphones shortly.
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