The Fundraising Thermostat

A few weeks ago I purchased a condo in Chapel Hill. It needed some updating since it was originally constructed in the 1980s, and I am in the process of painting and changing out a few fixtures.

One of the first things I wanted to do was change my thermostat. The one that came with the condo was an old mercury based thermostat.  At other places I’ve lived, I’ve had issues with these thermostats either overcooling or undercooling, so I wanted to get rid of it before it caused a problem.

I looked at various options and decided on a digital one that was the right price and would work with my heat pump.  The only problem: apparently I had a different type of heat pump than the thermostat worked with.  Oops.

Looking back on this, it reminded me of the importance for fundraising professionals to always keep our finger on the temperature of the individuals and institutions we work with.  I’ve worked with groups that thought individuals were going to be the lead funder for campaigns, only to realize that they were not as high on the donor’s priority list as they thought.  Knowing where you stand with your donors, and just as importantly what is going on with their lives, is critically important to the work that we do as philanthropy professionals.

It is similarly important to “know the temperature” is the various giving vehicles, their pros and cons, and which ones are popular in your area.  In North Carolina, donor advised funds are particularly popular, so being aware of their advantages and limitations is important for any development officer working with individual donors. Among other groups, planned giving options such as charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts are popular options.  Knowing what vehicles work best for different groups of people, combined with knowing your donor’s individualized situation, will allow you to help them make the right choice for their philanthropy.