The ONE Thing about Donor Trips

For success in donor travel, it is important to focus on one main goal.

People can only really do one thing well at a time, so we need to be focused in our requests. We know this from marketing 101. Campaigns and emails must have ONE clear ask, not “please make a contribution, and share this post on Facebook, and invite three friends to our next event, and subscribe to our new Instagram channel.” No one will do all of those things. Some might only choose one thing (and not the thing you want them to choose), and most will actually do none of them. A list like that is confusing, overwhelming, and will lead to inaction.

“If you chase two rabbits…you will not catch either one.”
– Russian proverb, The One Thing

So then why, with our donor trips, would we expect to attract so many different stakeholders and hit so many competing objectives?

Sometimes organizations looking to host large trips face such a push to get people on the plane that strategy goes out the window as they try to “fill the seats.” We know from events that it’s more important to get the right people in the room, than to just fill the room. We know from volunteer management that it’s important to get the right volunteers in the right roles than to just recruit anyone.

Our donor trips must be just as strategic, and in order to have a strategy, we need to get clear on the trip’s one main purpose. 

“Purpose without priority is powerless.”
– Keller & Papasan, The One Thing

After reading The ONE Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, this idea is engrained in me.  If you are doing a donor trip, and the main purpose (as indicated in your development plan) is to raise money, then your main goal – also known as your ONE Thing – is to raise money.

The ONE Thing about the trip determines everything that follows (who will facilitate, how much program detail, how involved/interactive the experience will be, etc.). This is generally why I advise against pairing groups together who are too dissimilar. I don’t mean dissimilar demographically, I mean dissimilar in their primary purpose – their ONE thing.

Imagine planning a trip with a volunteer whose ONE Thing is to gain resume-building experience to impress future employers, the major donor whose ONE Thing is to scope out the program to determine whether they want to make a million dollar gift, and the board member whose ONE Thing is to take a relaxing vacation away from the office without having to plan a single detail on their own. These are three very different people who need three very different itineraries, engagement plans, and strategies.

You would not send them all the same campaign email, would you?
You would not ask them to work your fundraising gala in the same capacity, would you?
So why would you put them on the same trip?

The fact is, you can’t design a trip based on every participant’s ONE Thing, so you have to design a trip around your organization’s ONE Thing. 

Here’s how that strategy plays out in real life

If your organization’s ONE Thing is to raise money, then you’ll recruit major donors and qualified prospects with capacity. You’ll take them on a tour of sites related to the mission, and be sure to explain how much things cost and what funding is still needed. While on the trip, you’ll discuss their most meaningful experiences and future investment (yes, you’ll discuss this on the trip, and here’s why). When you return home, you’ll follow up with prompt acknowledgement and reporting on the funding and program’s progress.

On the other hand, if the ONE Thing is to cultivate a cohort of storytellers who will expand your social media outreach, you’ll recruit volunteers and supporters with extensive social media experience and large followings. You’ll take them on a tour of sites related to the mission that have already granted permissions for photos and videos in advance. While on the trip, you’ll discuss their most meaningful experiences and how they plan to share them. When you return home, you’ll follow up with prompt acknowledgement and a communications plan to help guide each volunteer in their outreach strategy.

Remember, before even considering how an immersive travel experience will help your organization, get clear on your ONE Thing: is it to raise money? Recruit new board members? Cultivate a cohort of high-impact volunteers? Acquire collateral for marketing?

“What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.”
– Keller & Papasan, The One Thing

This clarity will inform and inspire the trip that truly meets your goals and exceeds your participant’s expectations.

Donor Travel One Thing

Download our  Donor Travel One Thing in PDF.

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