The term donor-centered is pretty self-explanatory. It means focusing on your donors’ needs and interests, acknowledging them in your letters and other communication, and taking into account that not all donors are the same.
If it’s so obvious, then why are many nonprofits so bad at it? You see countless examples of generic, organization-centered communication that barely acknowledges the donor.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Before you send your next appeal, thank you letter, or newsletter, run it through this donor-centered checklist.
- Is your fundraising appeal focused too much on your organization – rambling on about how great you are? Your organization may be great, but let your donors figure that out. Your donors are the ones who are great, and they want to hear how they can help you make a difference for the people/community you serve.
- Is your appeal segmented to the appropriate audience? Thank past donors or reference your relationship to a potential donor. Maybe they’re event attendees, volunteers, or friends of board members.
- Is your appeal addressed to a person and not Dear Friend?
- Is your appeal vague, impersonal, and filled with jargon your donors won’t understand? Don’t say we’re helping underserved members of the community. A donor-centered appeal would say something like – With your support, we can help low-income families find affordable housing.
- Does your appeal make people feel good about donating to your organization?
Thank you letters
- Does your thank you letter come across as transactional and resemble a receipt? Yes, you need to acknowledge the donation is tax deductible, etc, but most donors are more concerned about how their gift made a difference.
- Does your thank you letter (or better yet, a handwritten note) shower your donors with love? Start your letter with You’re amazing or Thanks to You!, and not On behalf of X organization.
- Are you telling your donors the impact of their gift? For example – Thanks to your generous donation of $50, a local family can get a box of groceries at the Eastside Community Food Bank.
- Do you recognize each donor? Is this the first time someone has donated? If someone donated before, did she increase her gift? Acknowledge this in your letter/note.
- Does your newsletter sound self-promotional and focus on all the wonderful things your organization is doing instead of showing your donors how they’re helping you make a difference?
- Is your newsletter written in the second person? Write to the donor and use the word you more often than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass? BTW, all your donor communication should be written in the second person. It’s much more personal.
- Does your newsletter include success stories, engaging photos, and other content your donors like to see?
- Are you using the right channels? Perhaps you only send an e-newsletter, but some of your donors prefer print.
- Are you showing gratitude to your donors in your newsletter?
Always think of your donors first
Use this checklist for other donor communication such as annual reports (these are rarely donor-centered), your website, and social media posts.
Make sure the messages you send to your donors focus on them and make them feel special. Staying donor-centered can help you build relationships. This is especially important as retention rates continue to plummet.
Read on for more information on the importance of being donor-centered.