What Do Your Donors Think?


Last month I read this article in the Boston Globe Magazine. You’ve been asking charities the wrong question It emphasized the importance of focusing on social impact rather than overhead costs. That’s an important discussion, but what struck me were the responses in the print version of the magazine.

Your intention may be very different from what your donors’ reaction will be.

Are you asking too often?

One person responded with”My husband and I are retired, but twice each year we send $10 or $20 to 10 or 20 charities. Within a week, they’re back again. It seems a waste of paper, time, and postage.” I can relate. The number of fundraising emails I received in December made my head spin.

Of course, you need to ask your donors for contributions. You have fundraising goals you need to meet, and the end of year fundraising surge is a proven way to raise revenue.  But your donors are seeing a lot of requests for money.

One way to alleviate this is not to send fundraising appeals to donors who have already contributed to your current campaign.  If that’s not possible, thank anyone who’s already donated.  Keep your appeals donor-centered and focus on building relationships.  Why Does Giving to Your Organization Feel Like a Transaction and Not a Relationship?

Perhaps instead of asking too often, you’re not thanking your donors and engaging with them enough.  Follow this golden rule of fundraising – ask, thank, report/engage, repeat.  You should be in touch with your donors anywhere between once a week and once a month in ways in which you’re not asking for money.  This could be via newsletter, email and social media updates, and thank you cards.

If the only times your donors hear from you is when you send a fundraising appeal, then yes it will seem as if you’re asking too often.  If you engage more with your donors, you might even raise more revenue.  Here’s How Often You Should Mail to Your Donors

The free stuff could cost you money

Another reader lamented the practice of organizations sending stuff such as labels or offering a premium if you make a donation.  “The waste of money on all these offers will not be my money.” Yikes. This is not what you want to hear from a donor.

Your donors want to help you make a difference.  They don’t want more stuff.  Your goal should be to find donors who will be committed to your cause and support you for a long time. If you think you can get more donors because you offer them a coffee mug, you’re reaching out to the wrong people.

Put yourself in your donors’ shoes

Every time you communicate with your donors ask what they will think.  How will she respond to this appeal?  Have we included an engaging story or is it just filled with boring statistics.  Will he want to read this newsletter article about our executive director receiving an award?  More likely a story about the Jones family moving out of a shelter and into their own home will generate more interest.

What you think and what your donors think are not the same. I encourage you to print this great Venn diagram created by Marky Phillips to help you remember what your donors think is important. The fundraising paradox

Image by Marky Phillips




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