Getting Results: Benefits of Creating a Full Partnership with Donors

As you embrace accountability and begin circulating your case statement for review and start the process of earning trust, your interviewees will almost certainly ask you to expound on your hoped-for results. They will probably suggest additional ways they want you to account for the success of your project.

When these suggestions surface, be prepared to embrace them. ALWAYS get clarification about these suggestions. And ALWAYS rephrase them as questions that need an answer.

For example, say you are starting a charter school and a potential donor seems to object:

“You don’t appear to have a way of measuring the growth in a child’s learning capacity if your charter school follows the proposed new curriculum.”

Then you would rephrase that observation as a question.

“So, Mr. Smith, if we can demonstrate a measurable change in the capacity to learn, rather than just improvements in test scores, by implementing this new approach to education, would that dramatically raise your level of interest in our project?”

Now that’s a question that can be answered. And just asking that question opens the door to real dialogue.

You are bound to receive all kinds of objections, inquiries, suggestions, and simple observations about the proposed metrics for measuring results to any and all projects. Be prepared to listen for them, and take them all very seriously. Your job is not to act like a politician and argue or out-debate an opponent.

Your job is to see if you can find a way to deeply interest people in joining your team.

You will succeed in doing so only if you accept every single response as a serious response, even if it initially comes across as a casual comment or observation. More on this later, but take my word for it—the way you listen and respond to potential donors in the earliest stages of reviewing your project will tell them volumes about how accountable you are really going to be once you get their money.

In the previous blog, “Getting Results: The Benefits of Making Your Project Accountable,” I said there are no charitable dollars without creating a full partnership with potential donors. I want to clarify this statement.

Many seeking gifts from others for their projects do NOT embrace this truth. They don’t actually reject it either. Usually they just don’t think in those terms. If you don’t know how partnership relationships can dramatically boost charitable contributions, you won’t get a full benefit from the gifts your receive. You’ll lose in the end.

Here is what typically happens. A gift is solicited, and many times a gift is given. But what kind of gift is this? It is usually a KISS-OFF gift. That means a gift that communicates, “Here is some money; now go away.” People who make kiss-off gifts are not nearly as interested in knowing details of your project, details like how you will measure results.

If you are seeking only the low-hanging fruit on the philanthropic trees in this world, you really don’t have to build relationships with donors and potential donors.  

But if you need major financial support from others, and if you plan on sustained support from them over many years, heed these lessons on building your case statement very carefully. Without question, I am teaching you the difference between just soliciting gifts and becoming a master of philanthropic motivation in your efforts to make this world a better place.