I want to bring you into a room with me.

It’s a board room – and around the long meeting table are seated 12 strangers. This is a donor focus group, and I’ve invited you to come, watch, and listen while I probe these donors for their thoughts and feelings about their charitable giving.

An empty boardroom with 10 black chairs around a long white table.

I first got started doing focus group research way back in my political career in the 1980s and 1990s – and I was a big proponent of using focus groups when I came over to the philanthropic sector twenty years ago.

So as the group gets started, I try to break the ice and make everyone feel comfortable with each other. I ask everyone to talk for a few minutes about the charities they give to, how they like to give and how they don’t like to be asked to give.

Then, about a half hour into the discussion, I ask people to tell me what they think of the way the charities they give to communicate with them AFTER they’ve made the gift. And, when I ask this question, I ALWAYS get the same response. It goes like this…

You know what I don’t understand? A charity sends me a letter and give them money. Then, three months later, they send me another letter and ask for MORE money. Why don’t they tell me what they did with my first donation before they ask me for another one?”

It’s simple: Donors give to make an impact.

Your donors give to you because they want to do some good. They want to help, in their own small ways, to make the world a better place. And you know what? You owe it to them to give them that.

Now let’s be clear here. Donors aren’t asking you to describe your process. They don’t want to hear a detailed description of HOW you spent their money. They want to hear about outcomes. They want to hear about results. They want to know WHAT their donations accomplished, and not HOW you spent their money.

I can even extend this donor desire to those who make bequests to your organization, and inform you of their gift intentions. Most of these donors aren’t looking for a lot of recognition or special treatment. What they DO want from you is the knowledge that your organization is continuing to use donated funds thoughtfully and effectively – and that you’re getting great results.

I encourage you to tell your donors over and over how their money is getting great results. Use every channel available to you. Use stories to show impact. And tell those stories over and over – in every possible place you can.

Your donors will love you for it – I promise!