Focus on your donors, and you can’t go wrong

by guest blogger George Crankovic

Whenever some new technology like email or blogs or Twitter bursts onto the scene, it’s almost immediately hailed as a revolution that will rewrite all the rules and change forever how funds are raised. It’s inevitable.

It’s also almost as inevitable that, looking back, all the hoopla will seem a bit silly. I mean, QR codes printed on direct mail envelopes? Did someone really think that would work?

Sure, people are naturally drawn to the shiny object, the next big thing, the newest, most wow-inducing technology. That’s just the way it is. But if you get caught up in a fad just for its novelty, you risk trouble.

That’s why it’s better to lean toward things that treat your donors right. Even if they’re old hat. No matter what new thing comes down the pike, you’ll always do well by focusing on donors — those things you can count on to build solid, lasting relationships with your donors. Here are three of the main ones:


  1. Send gift acknowledgements. This is so important, it needs to be a way of life. When you make a habit of sending your donors thank you letters and emails that gush with gratitude, you create the strong relationships that build retention. But even more than that, you’re saying that honoring your donors’ generosity is a value that your organization lives by. And that means you’re doing work that you can feel good about too.
  2. Report back. This is another big one. It’s vital to make a habit of reporting back to donors about how their gifts are making a difference. It could be in newsletters, appeals, social media, on your website, or in other channels. Doing this on a consistent basis will give your donors the satisfaction that they want from their giving — the knowledge that their money is doing good. But it also keeps you focused on outcomes, so you’ll always be on the lookout for those stories, photos, and other information that really showcases what you’re doing on your donors’ behalf. Which is exactly where attention should be in your donor communications.
  3. Stay donor focused. When you’re building appeals, it’s easy to fall back on statistics, program descriptions, stock photos, and other less-than-compelling content. Instead, in your donor communications, always zero in on the opportunity to do good that you’re presenting to the donor and the offer you’re making. Everything flows from that. Being donor focused even extends to things like keeping your website easy to navigate and getting names and addresses right. Donor focus is essential to good fundraising. It’s far too important to be anything less than a fundamental that you come back to again and again.

Funny thing about these basic approaches to donors — once they’re firmly established, you can almost forget about results. That’s because when you’re doing the right thing day in and day out, the results just take care of themselves.


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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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About the blogger

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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