How Are Your Donors Feeling About You Right Now?
“If a customer likes you and continues to like you, they’ll continue to do business with you. If they don’t, they won’t.” — Paul Greenberg, author, "CRM at the Speed of Light"
Well, that seems simple enough.
Why aren’t we doing everything possible to make sure our donors continue to like us? We’re living in an age of brand agnosticism, coupled with a high cost of donor acquisition and low donor retention. Everywhere I look, this is being written about, webinars are focusing on it and fundraisers are wringing their hands and sounding fairly convinced that the sky is falling.
So, I ask again: Why aren’t we doing everything possible to make sure our donors continue to like us?
Right about now, there are people wondering if they did something stupid. Were they fooled by a scam that has been around longer than the internet? Did they, in good faith, make a donation at year-end, thinking it would do some good in the world—but three weeks later, they still aren’t sure it was a good decision?
Just before year-end, I mailed checks to seven nonprofit organizations; I had supported six previously and one was a first-time gift for me. (And yes, I did mail a check, despite that fact that I do most of my commercial transactions online. I want to see how an organization treats its donors, and giving online is just too automated to give me a read on that.)
Speaking as a donor—and not as a fundraiser who knows all about year-end “use it or lose it” vacation policies, more mail than usual that overwhelms data entry and overall lean staffing—I’m wondering about now if my gifts made it to the recipients. Did they care? Did I waste my money, falling for their passionate stories of how they needed my help?
Because, you see, only one has thanked me for my gift so far.
Today, are your donors feeling like they made a mistake by giving to you? If so, it could be because too many nonprofit organizations have forgotten that the donor experience goes beyond taking a donation and doing wonderful things with it. It has to loop the donor back in—not just ask for another gift. It needs to tell the donor what he or she is making possible.
Simply publishing an article online or in a newsletter saying that you helped 54,278 people in 2016 does not tell me what difference my $25 or $50 or even $250 made. When I think about making another gift, I’m likely going to remember what organization made me feel good. I’ll probably think about who went out of their way to make me like them.
And that nice feeling means I’ll more likely continue to do business with them.
I’ll update you in a few weeks about the rest of the organizations. My past experience tells me at least two of them won’t ever say thank you. As I fundraiser, I get it. As a donor, I don’t. In your big budget, my gift may not make a big impact, but in my budget, that was a sacrifice. I chose to give to you. But if you don’t care, I think I’ll choose someone else next time.
Call me whiny. Call me a crabby old Baby Boomer. But remember, I am your donor. I am part of the reason you have a job. You can’t legislate what I feel—all you can do is try to make sure that what I feel is valued, special, liked.
So, send out a timely thank you for donations. Bring a smile to your donor’s face. Don’t leave them wondering if you got their gift and if you even cared about it.
Receipting a gift is a legal matter (above a certain level), but acknowledging a gift and saying thank you is a matter of human kindness. This old dog thinks that it’s time to see if simply being kind and saying thank you can positively impact our donor retention.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.