Have you heard the story of the boy and the starfish?
One morning, an old man takes his daily walk by the ocean to discover that the tide has washed thousands of starfish up on the beach. Ahead, he sees a child, who picks something up and throws it in the water. Again. And again. As he gets closer, he steps over countless starfish. He approaches the boy and can see that he is throwing the starfish back into the water, one at a time.
He asks the boy what he’s doing. “I’m saving starfish,” replies the boy. “My dear lad, there are washed-up starfish as far as the eye can see. You can’t save them all. I’m sorry to tell you that you’re really not making much of a difference.”
The boy picks up a starfish and throws it back into the ocean. “Well, it made a huge difference to that one, didn’t it?”
I’ve heard a similar criticism about #DonorLove. That we’re spending an awful lot of time and attention on too few people. That to solve the world’s problems we need more innovation, bigger ideas, transformational philanthropy.
I don’t disagree that solving the world’s problems is a tall order. In fact, it’s getting taller every day.
But I also believe that it is our responsibility and our privilege to show love and gratitude—as much as humanly possible—to the amazing, generous and caring people who give to our causes. That’s where #DonorLove fits in.
We are calling for a #DonorLove revolution. Let’s apply all our talk about innovation, big ideas and transformation to ways we can celebrate, nurture and cherish our donors. Let’s be as rigorous, curious and disciplined about stewardship as we are about ROI.
John and I live by 7 simple principles of #DonorLove that guide our work every single day. We –
- Show donors that they are heroes (We also get chirped at now and again for the use of this word. If it makes you feel better, think of this principle as “your donors want to help you solve a problem, and being helpful and kind is awesome.”)
- Share amazing and inspiring stories.
- Connect to donors’ values and emotions.
- Make a donor fall,and stay,in love with their charity. #DonorLove is a courtship. A romance.
- Ask for one thing and only one thing.
- Find the right voice for your story.
- Say “thanks” with passion!
I tell my 9-year old daughter all the time: Perfection is a myth. “Practice makes perfect” is BS. In our family, we choose to say, “practice makes progress.”
#DonorLove might not be perfect. Just like love in our relationships, it will both never be enough and can also feel smothering. But when we practice gratitude, we both feel joy and create joy. And that’s progress.
Note: this article is also in yesterday’s AFP eWIRE Canada. Thanks and love to Lisa MacDonald for asking me to contribute!