How skimping on your donors can make you lose your shirt

Great thought at Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That: How long are your shirt tails?

Good shirts have nice long tails. They stay tucked in that way. But a shirt company could save a lot of money by shortening the tails on its shirts by a few inches. After all, just a tiny bit off the bottom doesn’t make that much different, does it?

But the most important data never shows up on a spreadsheet: Customers who bought the shirt, thought it seemed short/cheap, and never came back. Your “fabric cost” spreadsheet doesn’t have a column for “customer retention costs.” Which means you may be saving money on a cheap product, but losing more money in lost repeat sales.

A good company has better math: What is the most economical way to keep our customers happy?

When it comes to donor experience, are you like the good shirt company, or the bad one? Do you trim just a bit off the bottom in a way you’re sure nobody notices — but maybe makes their experience just a bit worse than it should be?


  • Do you send your donors receipts promptly, or do you save a few bucks with some lousy process that makes it take weeks to thank your donors for their gifts?
  • Do you go to the trouble to find and tell inspiring stories about what donors are accomplishing with their giving, or is your fundraising vague and statistical?
  • Do you have a newsletter that’s designed to make donors feel good about the great things they’ve made possible, or is your newsletter all about how great you are? (Or worse yet, do you fail to report back at all what’s happening?)
  • Are you figuring out really cool specific actions you can invite your donors to take, or are you only raising undesignated funds and saving all the good stuff for foundations and mega-donors?

Donors aren’t likely to complain about these things. But like a slightly-too-short shirt-tail, they can just leave people feeling a bit under-served. Their connection to you and your cause is a little less delightful and rewarding. The chance that they’ll lose interest or get lured away by something else just that much higher.

Don’t be stupidly cheap. Your donors deserve better. And they’ll reward you if you treat them right.


Comments

2 responses to “How skimping on your donors can make you lose your shirt”

  1. I think you are dead on. Donor retention is boosted by having meaningful communication with the donors, from awareness to a year after the give. If you aren’t going out of your way to make sure the donor stays interested, you’re risking it!

  2. I think you are dead on. Donor retention is boosted by having meaningful communication with the donors, from awareness to a year after the give. If you aren’t going out of your way to make sure the donor stays interested, you’re risking it!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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