Improving Donor Relations

By James A. Donovan • February 27th, 2017

In this Blog we discuss three ways to improve relationships with your donors.  As I have noted before, one of the benefits of being a fundraising consultant is that I get to talk to major donors when interviewing for studies and other matters.  These three suggestions are based on their comments.

First — donors want more “live time” with you and less internet time.  As one donor said to me, “Whatever happened to an old fashioned in-person conversation?”  He continued, “I like to talk and enjoy a good conversation on a topic of mutual interest and my alma mater is clearly a top topic for me. It’s a great university and I wouldn’t be as successful as I am without having attended it.”

Today there are so many non-traditional ways to get a degree, particularly online.  Imagine not even stepping into a classroom.  This trend is a contributing factor in less live conversations.

Second — Donors want to be appreciated, in other words, not taken for granted.  Staff and volunteer leaders have to realize that showing appreciation can’t be a one-time expression. It needs to be repeated several times in several ways.  Again, the best way is in person.  However, hand written notes are best, followed up by a phone call and later an email.

As you drive around town, you will find that you drive by the offices or homes of many of your major donors.  Don’t assume you have to have an appointment to drop in and express appreciation.  The “surprise” visit is often well received, especially when you say, “I was just down the street at another appointment and could not drive by without stopping to say hi and thank you for your generous support.”

Third — Donors want to be reminded often about how their giving makes a difference.  I try to put nonprofits into one of the Three P’s of organizations.  That is, your mission is to make a difference in the life of People, Pets or the Planet. What else is there?

Organizations that feed the homeless tell donors how many families they can feed based on the amount of the donor’s gift.  Very often they have a donor who will match your gift so they are quick to say, give $50 and it will be matched by a special donor so we can now feed twice as many families.   Such incentives really work.

As for Pets, before and after pictures say it all.  A before photo of a Golden Retriever picked up on the street with a broken leg and an after video running around.

When it comes to the Planet, there is no shortage of causes from cleaning up the oceans to clean fresh air.  Most of us are familiar with Cape Cod or Key West.  Today, the news media is quick to show us pictures of the Coast Guard chasing ships that are dumping polluted waste in the ocean.  Thankfully, they catch them and prosecute them with serious fines.  Such news coverage helps others to think twice before they try to harm the oceans.

Be sure to remind your donors that their gifts help your organization raise awareness at your website and via your email blasts, which makes a difference.

To summarize — keep in mind when it comes to giving, do you take your donors for granted or with gratitude?

We would love to hear from you, please feel free to comment on this Blog.


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