Get Over Yourself – 3 Tips for Having a Donor-Centered Conversation

You’re working to deepen donor relationships, right? Did you grow to know and care about a friend because they gushed at you for hours about their successes and challenges, while you never got a word in edgewise? Doubtful. 

Rather than trying to build relationships with your donors by talking solely about your organization, shine a light on your donor! Think of your donors more as friends. Then start with these three strategies to foster authentic two-way conversations every chance you get.


If you’re too focused on your organization, you may overlook one of the simplest donor engagement strategies there is: listening. Try asking open-ended questions about your donor’s impressions of your organization or her broader philanthropic interests.  

You’ll likely hear about the issues, causes, people and places your donor is passionate about and you can let her share that passion with you. Not only are you involving your donor in the conversation, you’re learning just what motivates and inspires her about your work and the work of other nonprofits in your community.

Follow Their Lead

Don’t try to shoehorn into the conversation all the organization-centered talking points you prepared beforehand. For a good part of the meeting, let your donor lead the conversation to what SHE wants to talk about. You may find natural openings to relate the conversation back to your organization. Or she may do it for you. 

Or you may never get back to your organization and that’s okay. You now have a great reason to connect with this donor again soon! 

You and We

Use “you” more than “we.” Just as when you’re drafting written donor communications, a good rule of thumb is to use “you” twice as many times as “we.” Keeping the focus on “you,” (as in your donor) signals to your donor that you understand and value her support of your organization. You might try, “Thanks to you and your support, we’ve been able to serve twice as many families this year than last year.” 

And don’t forget to relax and have fun. Connecting with donors is such a rewarding part of our work as fundraisers! Don’t let your agenda of talking about your organization overshadow the time you’re with your donor, making a real connection.

Have you had a great donor conversation that wasn’t focused on your organization? Share your story in the Comments box below!

Special gift for you:  My step-by-step guide, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, is available here (click)