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When your donor has an idea...

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

When your donor has an idea...

Have you ever had a donor offer up an idea for your organization?

  • They will be happy to fund it.

  • They have all the details worked out in their head.

  • They know for sure that it will change the trajectory of your efforts…This is the answer to everything!!!

Or is it?

Let’s examine scenario #1 - Maybe

A potential donor wants to give the nonprofit you are working at 1 Million dollars.

You are a Zoo.

You would like to use these funds to insulate some of your enclosures to help protect the animals that live in your Zoo in the summer heat and winter cold.

The donor likes plants and thinks you need to add a Greenhouse to your location.

HMMM- some questions to think about-

  1. Does your CEO see the benefit of adding a greenhouse?

  2. Will this take away needed “Human Capital” needed for your daily needs and priorities?

  3. Will this addition:

    1. Save you money (supplying food for animals)?

    2. Make you money (people will want to come specifically to visit the greenhouse, or you can have special events in the greenhouse).

  4. Is this Donor funding 100%, or will it need others to “share the vision” and fork over their money?

  5. Does he have a friend or family member who might want to support your real priority (Keeping the animals warm/cold)?

All good questions to ask and think about before you say yes (or no).

Scenario #2 - Probably yes.

You have a Donor who would like to give you a donation to help create a partnership with another of her favorite charities. You serve retired individuals who live alone. You create events for folks to get together and socialize.

Your Donor’s other favorite Charity is a local Food Bank.

What can you do that supports both your missions?

How are you better together?

How can this partnership help you deliver on both your missions?

By working with this other charity, you arrange for the seniors to have an outing once a month to volunteer at the food bank. There is no heavy lifting but a lot of love and purpose shared. This is Good!

Scenario #3- Say Thank you, but no Thank you.

Your donor is ready to write the check to cover 100% of the purchase of a bus. He knows you have been using a bus service to transport kids to your after-school program, and he knows this will make a difference to your organization.


Who will pay for the upkeep of the bus?

What happens if this one bus breaks down? The bus service has other buses to fill in.

Who will pay the driver?

Who will pay the insurance on the vehicle?

What happens if the bus gets in an accident - Gees, how much will the insurance you get cost?

It seems the bus service is a much better idea and does not turn your after-school nonprofit into a transportation company.

BAD Idea and definitely, even though a well-intentioned thought, a really flawed reality.

Now the challenge is to work with this generous person to have him feel ownership to fund another more appropriate and mission-focused idea.

A couple of points to remember:

  • Most donors have the right intention - But sometimes, they do not have the information you do to help guide their donation.

  • Better to get part of a donation if it furthers your mission and moves forward in a collaborative way

  • Don’t kill your team to get some money to do something that is NOT at the core of your mission…Oh yes, don’t kill your people anyway!

  • If it’s a bad idea, find out what the donor’s philanthropic goal is and recraft the idea into a concept that works for both of you.

Need a sounding board?

A team to show you how to bring the twinkle to your donor’s eye without mission drift?

Ready to start talking about 2023?

Now is the time to call Team Kat & Mouse. We will give you the

Training*Tactics*Tools to build a fearless, expert, enthusiastic fundraising team.

And wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

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