Who Wants a Trend?

Why would I care about what is trending in stewardship and donor relations? What constitutes a trend, and what is it about a trend that would make me want to bring one home with me? Am I on the cutting edge of a trend or woefully behind the times, stuck several trends back? Should I grab onto a trend; should I hold back to see if the trend has staying power? What makes a trend worth adopting? What will I have to give up to go with the flow of a trend?

A friend of mine says that a bargain isn’t a bargain unless it’s something you need, and it can be had for a good price. Can the same be said about a trend? Do I need something that is reflected in a trend, and can I get it for next to nothing? Or is a trend something that is revelatory of a need I didn’t know I have and that makes me shout “Aha!” or “Eureka!”

In approaching the latest trends, I’m going to begin with an assessment of what I have now, and what I might be in need of. As I look around my stewardship and donor relations domain, I can say that I need a way to do more with less. Is there a trend that would help me index my work so that I would have a better sense of how to prioritize my assignments? Sort of like an Apgar score for donor relations.

Promise me that there is a trend in which gift officers are participating fully in acknowledging gifts that they have solicited. Or at least they are providing adequate information so that acknowledgments are accurate, personal, and timely.

If I see a trend out there that I think is worth introducing into my shop, how do I go about integrating it into my programs? Will the trend come with a training manual, instructions for assembly, or a YouTube video demonstration? I certainly will want to know what current practice the trend is meant to replace or advance, or if the trend introduces something new that we’ve never in the business done before: upgrade versus innovation, better practice versus next practice.

If I were asked what trend I’d be looking for, I may have a suggestion. I’d like to see a set of standard survey questions that get to the question of whether a donor-relations practice actually promotes philanthropy. For instance, in a survey about reports, in addition to questions about whether the report was informative, timely and appreciative, I’d like to see a question about whether the report moved the donor to additional philanthropy. I’d like to see a universally applicable set of questions like this so that ADRP can collect data on the effectiveness of some of our practices.

Julia Emlen
Principal, Julia S. Emlen Associates

Editor’s Note – Feel free to share your thoughts on this article or submit one in response. We would love to hear from our members on this or any other topics of interest for a future issue. Simply email [email protected].

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