Book Review: Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships
From chapters on human interaction to tips on writing, Ahern and Joyaux pepper anecdotes and observations from colleagues and mentors alongside their own advice, underscoring throughout the importance of what they believe to be the cornerstone of success: preparation.
Indeed, they practice what they preach. The authors (alternating between Ahern and Joyaux, depending on the subject matter) open each of their twenty-five chapters with a brief note to the reader, explaining what the chapter contains. They then move into the meat of each subject, complete with exhibits oftentimes practical, tangible examples, or action items for the reader before concluding with a summary of what was just discussed. Ahern and Joyaux certainly want to arm their readers with bucket-loads of knowledge, so that they, too, are prepared to communicate effectively to current and prospective donors. As the authors note in their preface, “this book covers what fundraisers need to know.” It may cover more than they need to know. But because the book’s topics and themes are laid out over a ten-page table of contents, readers daunted by the sheer depth and breadth of information should be able to easily navigate through the chapters that will be most useful to them.
While the book is primarily about the ways in which an organization can best increase donor loyalty, the authors begin by detailing the ways in which an organization can become more effective. Joyaux writes, “Everyone looks to the development staff to make fund development effective. But, too often, people ignore how organizational effectiveness impacts fund development.” So what does Joyaux believe to be critical to both organizational and fund development success? In her opinion, it is the ability to embrace both the technical (the how-to’s) and the philosophical (the whys) that confront organizations on a daily basis.
The remainder of the book deals with both elements. Chapter titles range from What Relationships Are and Why We Have Them to Readability: Visual Aspects of Good Communications. Because the guide’s purpose is to improve donor retention with effective written and verbal language, there is, of course, a focus on the technical aspects of donor communications. Chapters on writing cases for support, donor newsletters, and web site creation may be more helpful than those that delve into the vaguer, more philosophical nuances of successful fundraising, at least to professionals short on time. (Joyaux seems to acknowledge this in her note to the reader of one such chapter, entitled Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma, which she writes is “like the bonus cut on a CD. You might not like it or listen to it.”)
Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships was written with the intent to help advance fundraisers professionally; its goal, as a book in the AFP Fund Development Series, is to provide practical information and guidance. And the book is certainly chock-full of practical advice. But Ahern and Joyaux also hope to “stimulate new thinking and produce change” through “cage-rattling questions” that “challenge [readers’] learning.” It is in their more philosophical, less tactical sections that they encourage the reader to do just that.
Keep Your Donors : The Guide to Better Communications & Stronger Relationships
Tom Ahern, Simone Joyaux