In the fundraising world, we use a common metaphor that refers to donors as plants: seedlings (prospective donors) that when watered (outreach) become mighty trees (lifetime donors). Though well-intentioned, this metaphor is misguided. When we compare donors to plants (or any other metaphoric representation), we forget they’re people. Donations are given by people with wants, needs, and desires. So, fulfill these — date your donor.

In the end, 53% of donors leave due to a charity’s lack of communication. Just as you wouldn’t ignore a potential suitor (that you like!), you can’t ignore your donors. When someone gives to your cause, they’re interested in you, so show that person you’re interested in them too.

  1. Express Gratitude
  2. Be Honest
  3. Share your Needs

1. Express Gratitude

37% of non-profits do not send some sort of thank-you after receiving a donation. This should never happen. Within 48 hours of receiving a gift, make it a point to thank your donors. Do this via phone, email, postcard, or video — how you do it is up to you!

2. Be Honest

90% of donors want to know how their donations are impacting the cause they support — so tell them! Post your wins on social media, and send monthly newsletters about projects that you’re working on and projects you’ve completed, and share stories of the lives you’ve impacted. You should also consider sending an annual report to donors including a letter from your executive director, success stories with photos, list of your donor society members, and your organization’s financials.

3. Share Your Needs

At the end of the day, like relationships, donor interaction is still a two-way street. If you’re investing time and resources into maintaining a relationship, you’d like some reciprocation — and that’s OK! But, don’t expect your donors to read your mind. If you need funds for an upcoming project, ask. Make sure to highlight why it’s so important for the people and community that your organization serves.

In conclusion

Many non-profits shy away from communication with donors, because they’re afraid of being “annoying.” But the numbers suggest your organization should be more concerned that you’re not communicating with donors enough. Start investing the time and money in your donors, and maybe even take them to dinner — invest in them and they will invest in you.


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