6 ways to love your donors

Ready to put some donor love to work in your fundraising? Here are some specific things you can do:

  1. Thank donors for the same things you asked them for. If you asked them to help a hungry child, don’t thank them for fighting world poverty. Those may be two sides of the same coin for you, but possibly not for your donor.
  2. Write and design your thank-you messages with just as much passion and precision as you write your ask. More, if possible.
  3. Make sure you report back to donors on the impact of their giving. Have a newsletter, and make sure it’s all about the great things your donors make possible.
  4. Don’t have a braggy, look-at-me brand. Build your brand around the concrete ways your donors can change the world by giving to your organization.
  5. Write and design for ease of reading, understanding, and acting. Jargon, complex writing, hard-to-read design — those things are exclusionary.
  6. Listen to your donors. Find out what they care about, why they give, how they want to connect. Just connecting will improve the relationship, but they have incredibly valuable information they may be willing to share with you!

Beyond that, it’s important to have a culture of donor love — or at the least donor-respect. Build that culture by doing things like these:

  • As many people in the organization as possible should connect with donors regularly. Mainly to thank them by phone. Many people at nonprofits only encounter cranky, disgruntled donors when they complain. They don’t see the human and delightful side of most typical donors.
  • Spread the stories of heroic donors. Not just those who make large gifts, but those who have been giving for a long time, have given in notable and sacrificial ways, gone above and beyond in any way.
  • Check your bias. Donors are different from us in many ways — most especially age. Understand and embrace the differences. That can transform your attitude.

Love your donors, and they’ll love you back.


Comments

2 responses to “6 ways to love your donors”

  1. One more way to love your donors–sounds obvious but clearly isn’t, speaking as a donor–is not to make bad assumptions about names, particularly when you’re sending out mailing labels. Don’t assume that if a surname begins with the letters “Mac,” the next letter should be capitalized. Not the way I spell my name, and those labels go right in the trash, envelope unopened, leaving a lingering annoyance at the waste.
    Equally bad, don’t assume that all women are married (or that all married women use “Mrs.” when many of us use Ms., Dr., Rev., Prof., etc.) Better not to use a title at all than to use the wrong one: wrongly titled envelopes also get thrown away unopened. A wrongly titled letter tells me you don’t have a clue who I am. Also, please keep in mind that those of us who donate regularly already have enough mailing labels for several lifetimes, particularly in this age of email and online payments. A good “guilt gift” does often motivate me to contribute, even if I wasn’t going to; a bad one is just annoying.

  2. One more way to love your donors–sounds obvious but clearly isn’t, speaking as a donor–is not to make bad assumptions about names, particularly when you’re sending out mailing labels. Don’t assume that if a surname begins with the letters “Mac,” the next letter should be capitalized. Not the way I spell my name, and those labels go right in the trash, envelope unopened, leaving a lingering annoyance at the waste.
    Equally bad, don’t assume that all women are married (or that all married women use “Mrs.” when many of us use Ms., Dr., Rev., Prof., etc.) Better not to use a title at all than to use the wrong one: wrongly titled envelopes also get thrown away unopened. A wrongly titled letter tells me you don’t have a clue who I am. Also, please keep in mind that those of us who donate regularly already have enough mailing labels for several lifetimes, particularly in this age of email and online payments. A good “guilt gift” does often motivate me to contribute, even if I wasn’t going to; a bad one is just annoying.

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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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