Nonprofits and the Relationship Attention Deficit Disorder

Ten years ago, I went through a pretty traumatic divorce, and when I thought I was ready, I signed up for a couple of online dating services which I won’t name.  I tried it for a few months, but nothing came of it, and I found I really wasn’t ready after all.  I decided to give online dating another try late last year, and I ran into many of the same issues that I encountered the previous occasion.

After signing up initially, a subscriber puts together their personal page, adding a few complimentary photos, answering some personal questions, and telling prospective partners what you’re looking for in a relationship.  After you finish, you start browsing through profiles while other browse through your profile.  Someone might send a “flirt” to let you know they’re attracted by what they’ve seen in your profile, or someone might actually take the time to send you a thoughtful message.  You start a conversation online, which may go on for several days, but the relationship doesn’t progress to phone conversations or meeting in person, and as time goes on, more flirts and messages come in, and you or the person you’ve been communicating with start losing interest because there might be someone better out there in cyberspace.  Before you know it, a good thing that you just created is over.  You’ve lost a potential relationship because you are looking for something better, and not making the necessary effort to create a truly lasting relationship.  I refer to this as “Relationship Attention Deficit Disorder.”

Those of you who are married or in a relationship are quite lucky not to have to deal with some of the insanity of dating in these modern times.

The charitable sector shares something in common with many of those people who show characteristics of “relationship attention deficit disorder” by those who use online dating services.  Like those who have captured the attention of someone in an online setting, they make an initial effort to acknowledge their supporters’ interest by sending an obligatory acknowledgement of appreciation for a donation, but few seem to go beyond the impersonal thank you.  The organizations might sign the donor up for an e-newsletter, often without permission, that ends up in a spam folder unread.  Rarely, though, do organizations take the time to truly reach out and build a stronger relationship by making a simple phone call or sending personalized letter to the new donor, and after a period of neglect, the new donor moves on, and it loses out on future support.

Charitable organizations need to change the way they work with supporters after the initial contact.  I believe they need to do a better job of making more personalized attempt to find out what it is about their organizations’ mission and programs that attracted the supporter, and use that information to build upon, so the organization can increase the donor’s support, both emotionally and financially.  Organizations have to make donors feel more personally involved, if they want the supporters to stick around and continue to be more involved in their missions, instead of simply assuming that a donor will continue to support at their initial level.  Year after year, I read reports indicating that for the new gifts that organizations receive from new donors, they lose nearly as much by past donors which do not come back.  That is a failure of organizations to truly engage their supporters, and is the price paid for continuously searching for something or someone better than what they have already.

If you are part of an organization, especially a smaller or new organization wishing to grow, I recommend spending more time and energy communicating with your supporters, donors and volunteers, and encourage them to stick around and take part more in activities, and be real partners in your mission and programs, and avoid being guilty of “relationship attention deficit disorder.”  Don’t put more emphasis on finding new and better donors and supporters than you do on involving and stewarding the people who are already part of your organization’s family of supporters.





About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
This entry was posted in Communication, Development, Fundraising, Nonprofit, Opinion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s