The high cost of poor nonprofit leadership, and what you can do if you see it

Are you losing donors?

If you are, you are not alone. Donor retention is dropping across our industry and in most countries.

But not for all organizations. There are many, many nonprofits who are watching their donor retention climb, year after year. Usually accompanied by rising average gifts and improvements in other engagement numbers.

What are those organizations doing that most of the rest are not?

Short answer: They’re doing a handful of things right that are still not widely practiced.

One of the most important of these practices is this: Donor offers. They go to donors and ask them to do specific, motivating, rewarding things.

Why? The Veritus Group Blog has a theory, at What Happens When You Have No Donor Offers?

The major reason most organizations haven’t made the effort to prepare donor offers for their good donors is an arrogant and ignorant authority figure inside the organization who believes that donors should just pass them the money no matter what…. They themselves would not part with their hard-earned money under similar circumstances. But they require their donors to do it. That’s why those donors are fleeing in record numbers.

Arrogance and ignorance. Leaders are choosing not to do what our professional knowledge shows us must be done.

When that happens in for-profit settings, heads (eventually) roll.

Why are we letting this go on in nonprofits?

If you are in an organization where arrogant and/or ignorant leaders are crushing fundraising results, you have a duty to do whatever you can to change that. You need to change your leaders’ minds. Or change your leaders.

And if that’s not possible, you need to move on. There are other organizations that are getting it right. That’s where you belong!


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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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