Agency Partners Learn About “What Donors Want”

The "What Donors Want" Panel (from left): Tom Finnie, Sally Baird, Stephanie Stenger Montgomery, and John Twitty.

Today the Community Foundation of the Ozarks invited its nonprofit agency partners to attend a quarterly education session, this time focused on donors and what they are looking for when they make a gift. Four longtime CFO donors and fundholders — Tom Finnie, Sally Baird, Stephanie Stenger Montgomery and John Twitty — comprised the panel and, speaking to more than 50 representatives of Springfield and area nonprofit agencies, shared their thoughts on giving and interacting with charities.

The main themes: Passion, purpose, and results.

Twitty talked about giving being a “learned behavior”, how it’s difficult to write the first check but becomes easier each time you do so. Transparency is a big part of what he is looking for when choosing a receiving agency. “I want to know the financial statements are accurate, and I want money to be accounted for,” he said. Twitty also said he wants agencies to be factoring the current economic and donor environments into their planning. He also wants to know why an agency deserves his donation over another. “Why is it that you are unique?” he added.

Montgomery summed up the mind of a donor like this: “If you see the organizations that we give to, they would reflect the things we are passionate about,” she said. “You have to connect us to the passion of your program.” Annual meetings and data analysis were also important to Montgomery, as was a simple relationship and familiarity that goes beyond the donation. “It’s nice to have conversations that don’t involve an ask,” she said.

Baird, who along with her husband, Rob, have helped fund a number of arts-related projects (in addition to others) in Springfield, said collaboration and leveraging are key when choosing a receiving agency. “In a time of diminishing funds and more demand, Rob and I look for collaborative projects to fund,” she said. “We like to give when there is a matching grant [in place].” Like Twitty, follow-up and proof of fulfilling donor intent are vital to the Bairds: “All donors, unless they have unlimited resources, are going to want to know how you use our money to make more and be effective as an organization.”

Finnie expressed appreciation for the nonprofit workers and volunteers, saying that 20 percent of the GNP of the United States is underrepresented because of volunteerism. His priority is to make a meaningful impact even if he doesn’t have large dollars to give, and to know that his contribution will help into the future. “I want my small fund to make a lasting impression and do something meaningful,” he said. He said the day-to-day things that nonprofit staffers do to work with their donors–thank you notes, phone calls, updates on project follow-through–are what catch his eye. Finnie also urged organizations to make the most of their volunteer leaders. “Use your board. Keep them informed so they can say thank you.”