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1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward

What are you doing to give your donor the meaning s/he seeks?
What are you doing to give your donors the meaning they seek?

Donor needs vary and evolve, depending on where they are in their own life cycle and their life cycle with your nonprofit. Do you ever wonder how you might help them meet their needs? How you might reward them for giving?  You should — if you want to keep them as donors.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s “Theory of Human Motivation” where he breaks needs for human development and contentment down into steps that form a pyramid. Maslow suggests the basic human needs such as food, shelter, and sleep are required before you can pursue higher needs such as security, love and belonging, esteem and the need for self-actualization.

Sadly, just giving to charity doesn’t necessarily meet these higher-level needs. Donors may give out of guilt, fear, peer pressure (which doesn’t feel so good). Some give to be praised (meets esteem need, but only if you praise them). Some give to be accepted by peers (meets love & belonging need, but only if you offer opportunities to connect and feel loved)… and so forth. You see, giving is not always it’s own reward.

To create life-long donors imposes on your charity the obligation to do something proactive to fulfill your donor’s highest level needs.

Donors, like all human beings, are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

In non-psychological or theoretical terms, at the self-actualization pinnacle donors just feel darn good. They carry around a warm glow, representing the realization of their potential and inner peace.

This feeling is very powerful – and we human beings naturally seek it out. It’s one of reasons why even very poor give outsized proportions of their income to charity.

Another way to describe this is the search for meaning in life. For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning wrote: love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money, and energy) is a central way that we strive to find meaning.

If your nonprofit doesn’t complete the exchange circuit for donors, their search for meaning gets cut short.

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4 Things Clothing Upcycling Can Teach Nonprofits about Donor Retention

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Stop discarding clothes (letting donors lapse); Treasure them (renew and upgrade).

I know this may sound silly, but I sometimes like to think of my donors as clothing.

Huh?

Well, shopping is one of my favorite activities so I think about clothing a lot. I think about the many ways I can use it, repurpose it, mix and match it, show it off and even share it with friends and family. I treasure my clothing, and have a great deal of difficulty letting go of any of it (yes, my closet is stuffed to the gills)!

So, how are donors like clothing?

  • They cover a lot of basic needs.
  • They keep you (aka your nonprofit) warm and cozy.
  • They enable you to get through different seasons.
  • They help you look good.
  • They help you show off your brand and strut your stuff.
  • They attract others to you.
  • They are a big part of the story of your life.
  • And you should have a lot of trouble letting go of them.

Unfortunately, most nonprofits are much too cavalier about letting go. It’s expensive. It’s a waste of time. It’s completely irresponsible if you care about your nonprofit’s future – so I want you to STOP IT!

4 Ways to Cherish and Hold on to Donors

  1. Stop Discarding Donors; Treasure Them
  2. Meaningfully Thank Donors; Do it a Lot
  3. Show Impact with Stories and Compelling Images
  4. Build the Relationship

In Part 1 of this article I’ll discuss the first two ways. The second two ways will be covered in Part 2.

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5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

Do you have a "top service" donor-centered culture? If not, you're losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!
Do you have a “best service” donor-centered culture? If not, you’re losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!

It’s common for retail businesses to adopt the mantra: “The customer is always right.” But when’s the last time you heard “The donor is always right?” Too often, the opposite is true.

I hear a lot of complaining about donors. They should do this (e.g., give because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; be compliant and not make us work so hard); they shouldn’t do that (e.g., give any way other than ‘unrestricted’; require reports that take us hours to complete). I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

What can you do to delight your donors?

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Heed Maya Angelou to Retain More Donors

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Respected American author, poet, dancer, actress, singer and civil rights spokesperson, Maya Angelou, knows a thing or two about what makes people tick.

And when you’re endeavoring to keep more of your supporters, this is exactly what you must know too.

The Big Secret

Make people feel good. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Simple, yes? Common sense, yes?

And yet, how many of you actively practice this in your daily life at work?

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6 Secrets to Getting Your Donor Thank You Out in 48 Hours

Did you get my gift? Why haven't I heard from you yet?
Did you get my gift? Why haven’t I heard from you yet? Is this how you run the rest of your business?

In my work with nonprofits, especially the small to medium-sized ones (but sometimes the big ones too!) there’s one question many of you struggle with:

Gosh dang it! How on earth do you develop a system that assures thank you’s really get out in 48 hours?

The good news is: You’re not alone.  The even better news is: I’m going to give you the answer to your question.

HERE’S THE BIGGEST SECRET:

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Borrow from Jimmy Fallon to Keep More Donors

Set aside some time to show gratitude - you'll be doubly rewarded!
Set aside some time to show gratitude – you’ll be doubly rewarded!

TYIF!

If you’re a fan of late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon, you know he sets aside time every Friday night to write thank you letters. I think of it as “TYIF” (“Thank You It’s Friday). Jimmy’s notes are usually creative and thought-provoking, like “Thank you, emails that say “You have successfully unsubscribed from these emails,” for completely missing the point. One of his band members plays some soothing music that’s conducive to thank you writing – after a while, the music alone is enough to get you in a grateful, thank-you-writing mood!

What if your nonprofit did the same thing?!

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8 Top Ways to Send Nonprofit Donors Love on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity for donor stewardship!

I hope that by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose 7 out of 10 first-time donors and 6 out of 10 ongoing ones.

Don’t be one of those organizations whose donors only hear from you when you want something from them. Be generous, and show them how much their support means to you. You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

There are 364 other days each year on which you can fundraise.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking? Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love. It could be your major donors. Or your monthly donors. Or your donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more. Or your donors who also volunteer. Or your board and committee members.

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#GivingTuesday – How to Be a Winner

In my last post, #Giving Tuesday, Win or Lose Day? You’re in Control I talked about the origins of the day and all the good intentions that went into its creation. Yet I’ve heard from many, many nonprofits that they just don’t have the bandwidth to develop and promote one more fundraising initiative during this very busy time of year. I’ve been there, and I empathize.

Sometimes the newest bells and whistles are simply a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing in the end.  But rather than reject the notion of #GivingTuesday out of hand, I began to wonder if there were ways to jump on the bandwagon without cannibalizing other types of year-end fundraising.  Or without burning out staff and volunteers. Or without confusing donors who feel like they’re being asked for this, that and every such thing.

I noted that I love the idea of using #GivingTuesday to celebrate and thank our donors. We don’t thank our supporters nearly enough, so why not have a day dedicated to donor love?

I think there’s a way to make #GivingTuesday about both giving and getting. And I promised to share an example with you in my last post.

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