It’s not me, it’s you
Why should donors stay with you?
There is a disturbing trend among nonprofit organizations: communication is falling by the wayside.
Outreach is only a part of what your communications staff should be doing. You can’t forget the people who are already in your network. We’re not the only ones pointing this out – in fact, anyone giving fundraising advice will stress the importance of good communications with existing donors.
Why they leave
The Nonprofit Donor Loyalty infographic we’ve included here shows how more than 50% of reasons for donors to leave have to do with communications.
1. Not enough information
If donors aren’t sure what their contributions are being used for, they won’t want to continue giving. Even worse, they may leave without you even noticing. This type of exit is indicative of an under-utilized or poorly-prepared communications strategy.
Good strategy involves steps that can be applied to every donor, involves a plan for each type of letter/email, and a clear schedule for the year.
Central to any communications strategy is a clear, easy-to-use website. Donors should be able to find what they’re looking for within one or two clicks from your homepage. If you’re publishing annual reports or making announcements about special initiatives, create a separate landing-page within your site and link to that in your emails.
If you’re feeling really ambitious about websites and feedback, try creating a quick survey for your donors, asking between 1 and 10 yes/no questions, with an area for open-ended comments.
Pro tip: proceed with caution when soliciting open-ended feedback online. Forms on your website can often be a target for Spam Bots or malware or, if you’re working in a sensitive area of services, you can be open to online trolling. Making a survey available only to donors will help you keep the feedback form effective.
2. Not enough thanks
When your donors don’t get the thanks they deserve, it’s not because you aren’t thankful – it’s usually an indicator that you’re understaffed or don’t have a clear protocol for handling donations.
The easiest solution for communications issues is automation. If you have a CRM (Customer/Client Relationship Management software) that integrates directly with your online donation platform (called a payment gateway), or if you use an online service to manage your donations, you should be able to set up rules that cause a cascade of actions when triggered by a donation.
These actions might include generating an email version of your official Letter of Acknowledgement that includes important tax information for donors’ records; you might also set automatic notifications to the staff person in charge of donor management, so they know the instant a donation has been made.
Not enough motivation
Is donating to your organization worth their while? If donors believe other groups are more deserving, take a look at what your competitors are doing and take a leaf out of their book.
We’ve found that a “wall of fame” in your office or digitized on your website is a very effective way to make donors feel publicly recognized. By making a visible, public tie between their name and yours, they’ll be less likely to forget about their commitment to your cause.
Communicating regularly – not just solicitations for funds – keeps your donors feeling like you really do need them. Keep the statistics on your website or in your print materials as up-to-date as possible. Have you tried an interactive map of your service locations? Include a profile of a donor in your map’s “pinned” points, showing how their funds were applied directly to that service site/area.
Why they stay
The services and programs you provide are meaningful and have a real impact on the world around us. The cause is important and the work you do is vital. You’re worth it.
1. You share the love
When donors want to give, you make it as easy and seamless as possible. That means your online donation methods are clear and user-friendly. It means you process donations made by checks as quickly as possible. It means you turn donations into services with speed and transparency.
You anticipate the questions they’ll ask about your services – for example, through a simple FAQ page or a survey. You make it as easy as you can for them to access that information, and for donors to share it with others.
2. You share the credit
When you achieve the service goals you set, you make sure your donors – and the world – know that you did it with help. Each time you say “we”, it’s clear that you mean “our donors and our organization”. You give them the good news, the bad news, and the big news. Your actions demonstrate to donors that their commitment is your commitment.
3. You share the responsibility
Every organization has overhead costs. We believe that good administration makes for better organizations with more impact, which means spending money on efficiency measures is worth it. You let your donors know that the funds they provide for general operating are not just for show. Organizational efficacy is a priority, and your transparent practices demonstrate how strong leadership can keep services and programs running where they’re needed most. You take your administrative responsibilities seriously – as seriously as your donors feel about the cause.
Consider This: What’s the #1 reason donors shouldn’t leave you?
You’re Worth It
Why do donors stop giving? Sometimes, it’s because we fail to keep them interested or feeling appreciated.
The worst reasons why donors leave are the ones that are preventable. The experts at Bloomerang compared retention statistics from the commercial and philanthropic sectors and found that non-profits fall far short of the for-profit sector in communications.
Communicate well and often
In the charitable world, we have no excuse for lapses in communication. It may be our job to make good things happen in the world, but without the donors, we wouldn’t be able to do so.
Thank every single one of your donors, no matter the size of their gift. Every donor deserves credit for being a part of your work and your success.
You can send thanks even when donors haven’t given. It’s especially important to reach out to lapsed donors and let them know that you miss them. Let lapsed donors know that their participation is still important to you.
Bloomerang is a CRM company built by and for non-profits. Some of PDA’s clients use integrated CRM’s like Bloomerang to keep their fundraising databases up-to-date.
Infographic design by Bill Ross Creative. Statistics sourced from Professor Adrian Sargeant via Campbell Rinker, 2006
PDA is the donor relationship counselor you need. Contact us.