5 lies your donors tell you

When you talk to donors, there are a number of lies you are likely to hear.

They aren’t really lies, because the donors are doing their best to give you accurate and useful information. But they don’t have access to the truth about these things. Nobody does. No matter how earnest and helpful the donors are, these common statements are incorrect, and harmfully so.

If you use these statements to create strategy, you will deeply damage your fundraising revenue. You’ll end up betraying the very donors who gave you the direction.

Here are some common “lies” told by donors:

  1. You don’t need to thank me for my donation. Giving is its own reward. If you fail to thank donors, you will lose donors. A strong program that thanks donors promptly, relevantly, through multiple channels, and often is a key to improving donor retention rates.
  2. Remind me to donate once a year and I’ll make my donation then. This might ring true, especially coming from a donor who is in the habit of giving once yearly, as many are. But if you go invisible to a donor for 11-1/2 months, you will very likely stay invisible when that one reminder rolls around.
  3. Save your money and send me an email once a year instead of paying to send a letter. This advice will hurt even more than sending one reminder a year. The low engagement rate of email means even fewer of those once-yearly donors will forget their one shot at giving.
  4. No need to tell me about how my gift is going to work. I trust you. They may trust you, but if you don’t report back on the impact of their giving, you will build a weaker relationship and have lower donor retention over time. Telling donors about their impact is a cornerstone of a strong relationship.
  5. I don’t need to read a sad story to persuade me to give. Just give me the facts. There are two things that really don’t persuade the human mind: non-urgent situations, and statistics. Yes, some donors think they want you to give them those things. They’ll be far less likely to give than if you tell them about problems they can help solve.

These “lies” are not told to mislead you. On the contrary, they are really trying to give you useful information. They just can’t, because the information isn’t visible to them. Kind of the way you can’t see your own ears.

The way donors give you usable information is through their behavior. Watch that carefully, and you’ll be equipped to do what motivates them to give.


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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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