Donor feedback: a secret ingredient for stronger fundraising

Fundraising, when done well, is a relationship.

It’s not much of a relationship when the only time you talk to donors is when you ask them for money … and the only time you hear from donors is when they send you money.

That may be efficient, but it’s incomplete. And it is one of the main causes of low donor retention.

One way you turn that unsatisfying transactional exchange into more of a relationship is to do a great job of thanking donors and reporting back on the impact of their giving.

The other way is to solicit feedback from donors.

And that’s a big deal. So big, The Agitator calls donor feedback Fundraising’s Silver Bullet.

When you ask for something other than money — you show donors that you consider them to be human. And that matters.

So ask for feedback. You’ll learn things you can use, like their passion and their connection with your cause.

But here’s the interesting part: Just asking for feedback, even when they don’t respond, builds relationships.

As The Agitator puts it…

… the mere act of seeking a donor’s input is not only a fundamental element of the two-way communications that are essential to lasting human relationships, the mere act of seeking feedback will boost returns.

I can vouch for this, having tested it. We included a simple two-question survey in an appeal for half of the donors. The other half got the typical appeal with no survey.

The response rate from both groups was about the same. And only about half of those who got surveys responded to them. It looked like the additional the survey was a failure, or at least a non-success, but we kept our eyes on the two groups for the following twelve months.

Those who got the survey performed measurably better to subsequent campaigns. The percentage of them who responded to the survey was quite small, but the group as a whole became more responsive. In the end, their retention rate was a couple of percentage points higher.

That’s a big deal. And not at all unusual.

So ask your donors questions.

Most won’t answer.

But asking them makes a difference.

It’s a step toward a real relationship.


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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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