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Give Donors Community

By Wayne Olson, Senior Director, Planned Giving, Shriners Children’s



When people give to charity, they want many things in return. They want to feel good, that their donation has made a difference. They may also need some tax benefits. In addition, they may desire some form of recognition. They expect these and more. However, with the possible exception of tax savings, the one thing every donor wants every time is community. Give your donors community.


Donors want to feel they are partnering with others to make something happen. They want to belong. They don’t want to risk being alone. Even the daring donor, who appears to go solo, never does. That donor is just hoping others follow his or her lead. That donor, too, is looking for community.


Let’s try a social experiment that has nothing and everything to do with fundraising.


  • The next time you go to an uncrowded restaurant, pick a table far from everyone else. Watch what happens. Even though there are plenty of open tables, the next person or couple who arrives will sit near you, probably at the table next to you.

  • Park in a large parking lot far from the door of a business you want to visit. Cars will pass open spaces and park near you. Ask anyone with a new car hoping to avoid “door dings” how often this happens.

  • Theaters? Same thing. Don’t get used to having that armrest to yourself, no matter how empty the theater is.


These are all unconscious signals that emphasize the human need to be part of a community. People just want to be near other people. No one wants to be alone.


We must do everything with the knowledge that people want to be part of community. We should strive to find ways to reassure people they are not alone. Help remind them that others have and will join them in supporting what we do.


The trick for us, while admittedly not easy, is to make the donor feel special and unique, while also reassuring the donor they are part of something bigger. This takes practice and a sincere desire to learn ways to find individual, unique strengths in others, while also pointing out how they will fit into the cause at large. Here are some ideas to grow community in your organization and with your donors.


  • Recognition – Giving levels and legacy societies are important. People want to feel they are not the only ones giving to a cause. When they feel that way, they will wonder what other people saw that they missed. Create and cultivate giving societies. These also play into our natural desire to “complete” things by

  • achieving certain levels, and our competitive nature, to want to give more than everyone else, or give more than we did before. No matter what, however, no one wants to give alone. Remind them they are not alone.

  • Thank you – Donors give as a form of communication. The message is, “I trust you to use my money wisely.” An authentic, caring response indicates that trust was well placed. Communication is a two-way medium. Communication is community. Notice how they have the root word in common. Your warm thank you creates community. A cold thank you or no thank you for a gift destroys community.

  • Operations – Treat your board and staff with the same concern and care as your donors. A team that works together achieves more. A team is always greater than the sum of its members, and the only way to achieve a great team, is for each of its members to feel needed and important. They need to feel community, not hierarchy.

  • Donations – Remind people when they give, that someone else did something similar once and felt wonderful. This is kind of like Tripadvisor or Yelp reviews. If “DojoCat49” gave this restaurant a great review after ordering the fajitas, chances are I will have a great experience too. People like knowing they are likely to accomplish similar results to others in their community. They are not going where no man has gone before.


When raising funds, talking with coworkers or even with family, remember that we all want to belong. We all want to feel part of something. In everything you do look for ways to give your donors and staff community and you will succeed.


Books available by Wayne Olson, Click Here to visit WayneOlson.com 


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