Quit calling it donor relations.

It’s people relations. It doesn’t matter if she’s a prospective donor, a volunteer, a parent or a student. It doesn’t matter if he gives time, money, or attention. Or none of the above. 

If you care about your organization, then you should be building relationships with every person.

Every  single person you encounter.

Segmenting the people you know for the purposes of sending appropriate messages is one thing. Segmenting them because you think that somehow donors are different from other people is completely different.

A person is a person is a person is a person. A person has dreams, hopes, and ambitions. A person has quirks and traits and tendencies. Anyone might have a reason to care about your organization, and it might not be the reason you think.

But if you only look at her as “soccer mom,” you might miss that this particular person dreams about somehow personally making a difference. If you only look at him as “volunteer,” you might miss that he hopes to introduce his kids to philanthropy through your organization. If you only look at that couple as “stay-at-homes,” you might miss that they really are seeking for the best way to invest their time and energy together.

Everyone should be in your database, so when you encounter that person, it doesn’t matter whether he’s a donor or not – you have an entrée into a conversation about their dreams, hope and ambitions.

A chance encounter with a community member was a forceful reminder of this truth. His kids are really into soccer. My client was an arts organization that educates children. A mismatch? Not at all. Not after he wistfully said he wished his kids could learn a little discipline. What is learning to play an instrument but learning discipline? Sure, it’s a lot of other things, too. But one big part of what it brings to kids is the knowledge that if you keep at it, you become better. Maybe the class in rock can do that for him.

Everyone you meet is a potential relationship. And every relationship starts with seeing every person.