Don’t we-we on your Donors!

by Marcy Heim on November 27, 2019

You really CAN make this shift!  Really!

You all are working REALLY hard. You give your heart, energy and smarts to fix, enhance, inspire, lift up, prevent, support, and more… to make the world better.

I appreciate you and what you do.

Maya Angelou said it best, “You want to compose a good world. It’s an honorable and noble profession.”

Maya Angelo quote

Yes, you are in an honorable and noble profession.

But here’s the deal that you need to “get.”

If we have sincerely shared how the world is better because our donors gave, THEY will feel like THEY have done it!  WoHOO!! Celebrate this!

“You reach the smallest communities in Wyoming with Science with your support of the Science Bus.”

“You have given a small child a coat and boots this winter and the gift of warmth.”

“You have made education possible for those who can’t meet tuition.”

“You put smiles on the faces of our senior residents with the music you provide.”

“You gave a homeless family a safe night’s rest.”

Heart community

Here’s my point.  As I read all the year-end appeals, this is what I get.

“With your help, we are providing a safe space for homeless people.”

“Thank you for your continued support of _________(name) – fill in the blank.”

“We know _________(name) – fill in the blank “is important to you.”

“With your support, we do our great work.”

Folks, you need to get most of the “we” and “I” out of it.

But, you say, the donors don’t play the music at the assisted living facility (well not unless they’re Marcy – then they play at senior centers all the time – just saying). Donors don’t drive the bus and they sure don’t teach the science in remote areas.  Donors don’t go out and buy the coat and boots.

Right – and you won’t either without their gifts. So really they DO make it happen.  Yes, it wouldn’t happen without you, but it won’t happen without you connecting the dots for them to FEEL what their money DOES.  And your year-end appeal, major gift letter, thank you post card, etc. will be so much more effective when you are willing to let go needing to be appreciated and recognized for what YOU and your organization are doing and just give it all to them.

I heard a story just last week about a donor who said, “I always give to operations – then I can take credit for everything wonderful X (non-profit) does!”

Bloomerang, a donor software, is so committed to this they actually have a piece of programming within the product that rewrites your appeals, created in cooperation with Tom Ahern, to count the “we”s and rewrite to “you”s.

True Marcy Heim story, “I bought a new accounting system for CTM – Children’s Theater of Madison – where I both performed and served on the board.”  Now let me be really transparent here.  What I REALLY did was take a paper ornament off a Christmas tree in the Theater lobby and wrote a check for several hundred dollars so CTM could get a new accounting system. I knew it would help them from my years on the Board and I figured not a lot of people would want to do that ‘tree wish’.  But here’s the thing, I totally felt like I GOT THAT FOR THEM. But, of course, I never stepped foot in a store to buy any accounting software.  But I “owned” that gift. I gave it with joy and I was thrilled to do it.  So don’t go saying, “With Marcy’s help we bought a new accounting system and we set it up and we figured it out and we implemented it and we put in countless hours to get it running.”

It's not about the money.. it's about what the money does.

AND, the more the donor OWNS IT, the more they are connected to you.

Sure, you’ve been writing “we did this” for years and it has raised money.  I am challenging you to understand that the more you make the donor feel THEY are totally accomplishing your work with their gift, the more satisfaction, joy and fulfillment they will feel as they give.  Your relationships will be more real… and deep… and authentic. Their giving will be continuous and increase as you present opportunities for them to more good stuff!

And do you know what else?  I know.  I. Know. Just. How. Much. You. Do! And I appreciate you, celebrate you and respect the amazing talent and gift you are in the world. And remember that I am celebrating you even when sometimes your leadership could do a better job letting you know you are valued.

So take the “we,we” out of ALL your donor conversations.  But be sure to lift up your fundraising colleagues, your accounting folks, your board, your receptionist, your program staff and your janitor.  You will reap what you sow and you will be overwhelmed  – yes overwhelmed…with appreciation.  As you should be.

Invest in JOY®


Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at

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