Knowing Your Donor or Volunteer

fuseIn the fundraising world, we speak with people all day long. Upon meeting someone new, we instantly gauge and adjust our tone, body language, expressions and words based on what we learn within the first few moments of interaction.

We do this for many reasons, such as making others feel at ease and building trustworthiness.

In our work, whether we are asking for a gift or recruiting leadership volunteers within a campaign, we also need to know how to speak and interact with those with disabilities. This may be easier said than done, so it’s helpful to review a few important tips. These should be regarded as general caveats of appropriate behavior. Since everyone is different, these guidelines only hold true for most individuals most of the time.


  • When interacting with someone with hearing loss do not make assumptions. If you do not know the individual’s preferred communication method, ask.
  • To get the attention of a person with hearing loss, call his/her name. If there is no response, you can lightly touch him/her on the arm or shoulder or wave your hand.
  • If an interpreter or caregiver is present, talk to and face the person, not the interpreter or caregiver. Always address your comments, questions and concerns directly to the person with whom you are talking.
  • Watch the individual’s eyes to ensure understanding – do not depend on affirmative head nodding only.
  • When greeting someone with a significant loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give a vocal cue.
  • If the individual is in a wheel chair, find somewhere to sit down at the wheelchair user’s level.
  • Keep in mind that, to a wheelchair user, the wheelchair is part of their body and personal space and should be treated as such. Do not rest your foot on the wheelchair and never move a person’s wheelchair unless you have been asked to do so.
  • When a service dog is present, be sure to ask permission before petting the animal or else do not make contact with it.
  • Treat adults in a manner befitting adults, regardless of their disability. Never patronize.
  • Finally, always ask yourself, “How would you wish to be
    treated?” The Golden Rule can be used in almost all of life’s circumstances.

And remember,
“A single act of kindness is like a drop of oil on a patch of dry skin – seeping, spreading, and affecting more than the original need.”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

Investing in a Donor

What is our biggest regret after a campaign?

Is it that we asked and were turned down? No! It’s when we hear someone say, “Why wasn’t I asked?” or “I would have liked to have been involved in that!”

Everyone wants to be needed. It’s one of our fundamental needs in life. And that includes the needs of a donor or prospective donor.

When an individual finds a connection with your project or organization, their passion is typically easy to spot. Their eyes light up. They talk passionately about your mission. They may ask for more information.

This is the green light to ask for their involvement. They want to be part of your organization, to be needed.

That involvement may grow slowly as the donor or prospect becomes more familiar with you over a number of months or even years. They like to be given opportunities to become part of your team, to get to know “you” before they may invest their money and/or time. And it’s our job to give them those opportunities.

These may include:

  • Keeping them informed. This can come in the form of newsletters, emails, podcasts, websites, and of course, the thank you note.
  • Asking them to help with a special event or project.
  • Inviting them to join a board or special committee. Many top donors and prospects want to be part of the solution to the challenges your organization is facing.
  • Requesting feedback on special projects, organization literature, and ‘what your organization can be doing better.’ This can be a scary question to ask, but this outside feedback can be invaluable and eye opening. And what better way to make your donors and prospects feel needed and valued?
  • Appealing to them creatively by asking for help promoting your cause on social media, writing guest posts on your website or blog, or even interviewing them for content for a newsletter or mailing.

If a donor or prospect is willing to invest their time with you, then fully engage them. Having donors and prospects as advocates for your organization will help you raise even more awareness and dollars! Investing in a donor has the potential to pay back many times over.

And remember,

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet