Donors Need to Be Reminded That You Need Them

I remember well the day I realized a fact of life. It was gloomy with a cloudy sky that threatened rain. But that was nothing compared to the gloom that settled over me when I discovered the truth: My donors weren’t waking up thinking about my organization, thinking about us all day long and going to sleep with my latest direct-mail ask circulating in their minds.
OK, so it wasn’t that dramatic. But the truth is, our donors probably support multiple nonprofits and are approached by many others searching for new donors. Boring them over and over or deciding that we won’t mail or e-mail because “we don’t want to bother them” gives them a great opportunity to think about other nonprofits and perhaps make their donations to those other (also worthy) groups.

While we shouldn’t begrudge the fundraising success of any legitimate charity, it hurts when it takes money away from us. Yet we let weeks, even months, go by without a meaningful conversation with our donors. It’s hard to maintain a relationship with someone that you aren’t connecting with for months at a time, even with Facebook to help us share the sometimes trivial events of our lives.

As you plan your strategy for 2013, ask yourself these questions:

Question 1: Are our communications interesting to the donor or just to us?
Are you regularly posting blogs — which no one is reading? Are you sending out newsletters — that generate no response? Is your Facebook page generating responses — but only from your employees? If so, you need to ask yourself why no one else is paying attention.

There is no “one size fits all” answer here. Sometimes it’s just a matter of inviting people to check out a blog or social-media page, or including your URL prominently on all your mailings. It could be a lack of interest is because what we write or post is simply boring and doesn’t make the donor feel proud to be a partner in the work. And sometimes what we send out is just too hard to read.

Pamela consults with nonprofits in the United States and internationally, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations, getting hands-on experience in everything from direct mail to DRTV, and major gift solicitation to event management. Pamela is a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and has a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.

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  • Kathie Gautille

    I agree 100% with these tips. While technology is great, a conversation or personal note is highly effective in not only gaining a donor, but retaining a donor.
    I would add one more point to this article and that is letting the donor know how their donation made a difference and the continue need for support.
    Great tips!