When people give to you for the first time, often they know very little about you. Perhaps they found you through a link on social media. Or organic search. Or through a friend who emailed them a link to your appeal.
They were inspired to give, once, based on whatever they saw or read.
What happens next is critical.
Either you’ll inspire donors to stick with you, or you’ll depress their enthusiasm through benign neglect.
I say “benign,” because I’m sure you don’t mean to mistreat your supporters. Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet many of you do.
- Perhaps donors make a gift online, and are not immediately taken to a thank you landing page that reassures them their gift went through.
- Perhaps you send donors a deadening thank you email that looks like a receipt.
- Perhaps your generic thank you doesn’t tie back at all to the reason they gave.
- Perhaps your thank you talks all about your organization, rather than about how your donor is a hero.
- Perhaps your thank you focuses on the amount of their gift and its tax deductibility, and fails to mention specifically what it will accomplish.
- Perhaps your email thank you lacks the personal touch you put into your mailed thank you letters.
Here’s the deal: Donors are looking for meaning. If your thank you and subsequent donor communications don’t give it to them, they’ll dismiss you and go look for meaning elsewhere.
All donors have questions they need you to answer for them. If you fail to answer these questions you fail to lay the groundwork for developing a positive, ongoing relationship.
If you want more than a one-time gift you need to build relationships.
With new and online donors, this need for information is more acute since they tend to know less than ongoing donors or even donors who give through the mail. But what I’m about to say really holds true for anyone who gives to you.
7 Reasons Donors Stop Giving
- You don’t tell them enough about what you do
- You’re not really clear who you help
- You don’t show them what their gift accomplished
- You don’t come across as transparent
- You don’t show them how becoming more involved will make them feel good
- You don’t make it easy for them to get more involved
- You don’t keep your promises, so they don’t trust you (to stick with them, love them, not ignore them)
All of these reasons are easy to address. You just need to do so consciously.
4 Ways to Consciously Keep Donors Connected
All of your fundraising and nonprofit marketing should be done in good conscience. In other words, because you think it’s the right thing to do.
That means two things:
- You think
- You don’t just do anything, but the ‘right’ thing.
If you do the four ‘right’ things described below, you’ll address all of reasons a donor continues to give – or doesn’t.
1. GIVE donors the information they want.
The number one thing your donor wants to know is that you received their donation. And they want to know now. Face it, we live in a digital, instant gratification world. You’re competing with everyone else, not just nonprofits. People expect instant responsiveness. Make sure you’re set up so online donors are immediately directed to a thank you landing page. Then make sure they get an email thank you as soon thereafter as possible. Then send them a mailed thank you too. For donors who give via mail, get your thank you out within 48 hours. And, depending on the level of giving, maybe phone to say thank you as well. You really can’t thank too much. It’s what establishes trust, and is the foundation of any lasting relationship.
The next thing your donor wants to know is you’ll put their gift to use as they intended. Don’t send folks to a generic thank you page. Don’t send a generic thank you email or canned thank you letter. Make sure you tailor your gratitude so it’s appropriate and meaningful. And, whatever you do, don’t send the same thank you letter over and over again. If your donor gives a second or third time in the course of a year, change up the copy!
Finally, your donor wants to know when they can expect to hear from you next. If you promised this would be a one-time ask (e.g. for an emergency appeal), thank them and reiterate this promise. Of course, you can ask them if they’d like to be added to your email list to receive reports about the impact of their gift. But don’t forget to stick to your promises first! For donors where you imagine they might like to build an ongoing relationship, a new donor welcome package is a great idea. And you can also simply let folks they’ll hear from you in a couple of weeks with a list of free events and/or volunteer opportunities about which they may be interested. Give them a name and contact information and let them know you’re happy to answer any questions they might have.
2. Write emails that make donors FEEL something.
I often say “if you want gifts you must give them.” You don’t have to give tangible things. To the contrary, the most-appreciated donor gifts are gifts of content. And the best content gift is an emotional story that make people feel good about how they’ve helped. Donors want to see themselves as someone good and kind and visionary. They want to be able to look in the mirror and see their best self. Write emails to them that make them feel this way! Link to stories on your website, blog or e-newsletter that make them feel this way!
You won’t make donors feel good if you just write about data. Numbers are more of a headache than a gift. I know you don’t believe me, but… it’s true. You don’t want people to stop and think. You want them to feel. Stop with the “Last year we helped 325 children.” That makes your donor think “Good for you!” You want them to think “Wow, good for me. I helped Maria!”
3. Write emails that makes donors WANT to hear from you again soon.
If every email is an ask, pretty soon donors will stop opening them. I adhere to somewhere between a 7:1 to a 3:1 rule, depending on how often you email your donors. That means 3 – 7 pieces of non-solicitation content for every solicitation. Think of this in real human terms. How long would it take for your friends to stop answering your calls, emails and texts if all you did was ask them for favors? More often than not you have to send them invitations, jokes, articles, recommendations, requests for advice, pats on the back and the like. This shows you value them for more than what they can do for you; your relationship is just as much based on what you can do for them.
If every email is about you and your organization’s accomplishments and needs, rather than your donor’s, pretty soon donors will click delete. Again, it’s important to think from your donor’s perspective before you send out any form of content. What are they likely to think about this? How are they likely to feel? Will this make them want to become more, or less, engaged? When you send “We just rebranded” and “We won an award” and “We hired a new staff person” and “We helped 10% more this year, but our waiting list is still too long” it may make you feel better. But that’s not your goal with donor communications! Your perspective and your donor’s differ. Tell the donor a story that shows how they were a hero, and they’ll look forward to your next email. Invite them to an event that sounds like a lot of fun, and they’ll be happy they’re on your list. Send them breaking news or the latest research, and they’ll feel proud to be in the know.
4. Ask donors to take ONE action that’s about feeling more connected; not giving again, yet.
To make giving transformational, not transactional, requires building a relationship. And relationships are about give and take. Since they already gave you money, it’s not yet time to ask for that again. First, you have to give them an opportunity to get to know you better. And vice-versa. A great way for them to get to know you is to offer opportunities to connect. These can be in-person events, behind-the-scenes tours, brown bag lunches, ice cream socials or even virtual town halls. Engagement generates greater engagement.
People love to be asked for advice. No doubt you’ve heard the old fundraising adage: “If you want advice, ask for a gift. If you want a gift, ask for advice!” Send a donor survey. There are plenty of easy, inexpensive options today. And, as long as you keep the survey brief, you’ll likely get good participation and useful feedback. You can also call a random subset of donors to ask questions you would have put into a survey. This will give you more qualitative feedback.
People don’t want too many options. If you give people too many choices, they’ll be faced with ‘analysis paralysis.’ [Learn more about the famous jam study here]. You’ll get much better engagement when you ask for one thing at a time. In your next email you can ask them to do something different.
Donors will stop giving if you don’t give them what they need.
Donors will continue giving if you meet their needs.
Focus on these things in all your communications:
- Why you do what you do (told through the lens of stories). This is your unique raison d’etre. It’s what makes you stand out from others, and gives your donor a specific reason to continue giving.
- Who you help (again, told through the lens of stories; not data). This triggers an emotional response and connects with the donor’s values.
- What, specifically, you do (again, told through the lens of stories). This demonstrates the real life impact the donor can have when they invest philanthropically through you.
- How the impact they’re creating has real meaning (tell stories; share testimonials). Offer demonstrable and social proof of the impact of the donor’s philanthropy; trigger feelings of loss and sadness were you to cease to be able to continue to fulfill your mission.
- How you’re transparent, authentic and trustworthy (be prompt, personal and easy to connect with).
- How the donor benefits and can get further involved (offer a range of engagement opportunities)
Want to Improve Donor Retention by Leaps and Bounds?
Grab my Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook. You’ll get six volumes that will walk you, step-by-step, through everything you need to retain and upgrade donors. Simply increase retention by 10% and you should be able to double the amount of money you’re currently raising from your database, even were you to acquire no new donors!
As with all Clairification products, this comes with a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% money-back guarantee. If you’re a Clairification School student, make sure you’re logged in before you make your purchase, as you’ll save almost 50%. Really, you can’t lose.
Questions? Just ask me.