6 Things Matchmakers Can Teach Fundraisers in an Era of Digital Darwinism

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

Matchmaker make me a match

Matchmaker make me a match

In many ways, what’s new is old and what’s old is new.  I read a lot of Brian Solis who speaks persuasively about The End of Business as Usual in an era where technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to adapt. Yet we must adapt, or die. How do we do this, and what does this mean for fundraisers? I found food for thought in Solis’ recent article, The 9 Laws of Affinity in an Era of Digital Darwinism.

Rapid change can be dizzying. Ground yourself by remembering that though technology has changed, people have not. We have the same drives… needs… yearnings as prehistoric tribes.  It’s not just about survival. Darwin wrote about survival of the most empathic. We long for connection and meaning. In other words, it’s not just about the “fittest” but about the “fitting.”  Philanthropy provides that “fit opportunity” in spades (or, more aptly, in hearts).

And who knows the most about making people fit together? Matchmakers! Among the most effective matchmakers today are online dating services.  Though it would’ve been easy to assume that matchmaking is such a personal endeavor that technology could never touch it, that’s not the case at all.  Because the digital revolution means that people are more connected today than ever. Successful matchmakers don’t eschew technology; they embrace it. So should you.

Here are 6 things online matchmakers do that nonprofits should emulate:

  1. Matchmakers help people find their soul mates. They strive to connect folks based on shared values. They use technology to facilitate this and keep track of people’s preferences.
  2. Matchmakers strive to build relationships that will be long lasting and mutually satisfying. Successful online matchmakers have found the opportunity to become relevant in new channels and networks, earning consumer attention and helping folks form meaningful alliances. They do this not with gimmicks, but with consistent delivery of value and meaningful engagement.
  3. Matchmakers respect the preferences of their customers and use these affinities as a guide to create proposals. Technology is used as the glue to bring like-minded folks together. They don’t waste their clients’ time by offering them opportunities that don’t match with their interests and needs. 50-somethings who want to date folks their own age are not offered 20-somethings as potential dates. Nor should you offer appeals to care for seniors to folks who consistently earmark donations for children’s services.
  4. Matchmakers don’t use “push techniques” or try to convince folks to meet people they don’t want to meet. They’re focused on fulfilling their promise to bring meaning into their customer’s life. They put the customer in control, helping them find the fit that’s right for them.
  5. Matchmakers offer and celebrate choices. They don’t squeeze everyone into the same mold, or insist on something like “unrestricted funding” which is the very opposite of donor-centered. They respect people’s right to choose.  
  6. Matchmakers offer friendly and prompt service. They’re customer-centered, supportive and caring. They try to bring people joy. Like the joy that comes from giving.

Take these 6 matchmaker lessons to heart and you’ll be well ahead of the game. Technology can act as your assistant, making it possible for you to easily bring folks together in a shared, common space.

WARNING: Do not ignore the heart and soul of these lessons in favor of a focus on technology. Bringing people together is not enough. It’s like hosting a special event; then never following up with the folks who attended. What’s the point?  That’s engaging in transactions within the space. You want to engage in transformation in the space. That’s worth your time. And it’s worth the time of your constituents. Technology is a tool. You need to be online because that’s where people will look for you. But you’ve also got to deliver.

To connect and foster genuine relationships, says Solis, “organizations must learn how to dedicate resources to listen, learn and adapt the processes, systems, experiences and prevailing culture that will entice and nurture consumer engagement.” That’s a mouthful, and easier said than done.


Listen for the offer first. Then engage from the heart.

Listen for the offer first. Then engage from the heart.

#1 Clairify your constituents’ concerns; listen for the offer. This is something Daniel Pink describes well in his book To Sell is Human. It’s a way of discovering how to provide value by listening between the lines. When folks need something, be the one that fills that need.  When folks have questions, be the one that finds them answers. When folks have problems, help them find solutions. Where folks seek meaning, validate their purpose.

What do your constituents care about? You absolutely must figure this out. Don’t guess.  Listen.  Of course you can ask (in person; via surveys, etc.). But if you pay attention to their opens, click-throughs, likes, shares and comments, you’ll learn a lot.

#2 Clairify your values; own them. But do so in a way that gives your connected constituents something to align with. Put your values out there. And make sure you’re all on the same page. Different staff departments. Volunteers. Clients. Do you agree on your vision, mission and values?

#3 Clairify your brand; fulfill your promise. What’s your vision? What do you stand for? Is it worthy of affiliation? Excite folks and give them a reason to join your team. Then deliver value consistently. Consistently! Seriously, don’t do something once or twice; then stop. [I went on one charity’s website today and found a link to their YouTube channel. Then I noticed they hadn’t put up a new link for two years!] It’s a waste of everyone’s time. It pulls the rug out from under your constituents’ feet, and sours them on the entire industry. One of the number one reasons I hear donors tell me they stopped giving to charity is because the organization did not fulfill on its promise.

#4 Clairify your engagement objectives; measure actions against desired responses. What are you hoping to achieve?  Design strategies in a manner that stimulates interaction and delivers the results you seek. Folks should be thinking/feeling “Heck, yeah. I agree! Disagree! Want to join! Want to see that happen!” If you give folks a good feeling experience they’ll continue to engage because they want to feel that way again.

#5 Clairify your stories; make the donor your hero. Recognize and reward community participants. Apply the principle of reciprocity. Give to get. Generosity begets generosity. If you don’t want to build true relationships, don’t be surprised when your friends are only of the fly-by-night variety.

Think like a matchmaker. Use social media thoughtfully to help folks find where they “fit” with your organization. Stay central to the lives of your constituents and your community by fulfilling on your promise, demonstrating relevance and offering value.

This is the ninth post in the Philanthropy, Not Fundraising series — exploring the ways in which the former is transformational, donor-centric and fundamentally human while the latter is merely transactional. Let me know what you think!

You can move from transaction to transformation by applying the Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Check out this SPECIAL GUIDE with easy-to-follow worksheets and exercises to get you – and your supporters – on the path towards more meaningful engagement.

As always, feel free to contact me!

Photos: Flickr by Monika Blatton

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Claire,

    I liken our relationship to donors like a courtship. In a courtship, both parties know they are looking at a long term relationship (marriage). They are trying to decide if values, vision and passions align. I must try to do the same thing, I need to be forthright about who our organization is. I also need to help the donor discover if their values align with ours (partially or fully). I have found that donors want to make a difference if it makes sense for them (convenience, timing, values and passions etc).
    David Sena (@LeadCharities) recently posted…Top tips for changing your organizationMy Profile

  2. Claire,
    crazy minds think alike. Last week I developed a campaign called “Philanthropy Dating” and developed a questionnaire to share with potential sponsors that would help me match them to a perfect mission in our portfolio. I thought I was a little silly but now I’m convinced I’m crazy. Thanks for the affirmation!
    rich geisel recently posted…Can a Robbery be a Blessing in Disguise? That depends on You…My Profile

    • Great to hear from you Rich. Your campaign sounds terrific! (And I believe you mean you’re convinced you’re NOT crazy).

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