One Key Idea to Simplify Nonprofit Donor Retention
Want to keep more donors? It’s simple really. What it all boils down to is one key idea. YOU.
You and the role you play in assuring your donor gets lasting satisfaction from their gift.
A prompt, personal thank you is a beginning. Yet it won’t have lasting effect. You must go above and beyond the “donor receipt”—even if you know how to write a killer donor-centered "thank you" letter.
• This is where your donor-communications strategy comes in.
• This is where your strategic content-marketing program enters the picture.
• This is where your ability to integrate fundraising and marketing matters.
What are you going to do to show your donor the impact they are having through their philanthropy?
Giving is Not Always Its Own Reward
Unlike when someone purchases a retail product, they don’t get ongoing enjoyment from their philanthropic gift. If they buy a car, they get to drive it daily. If they buy a computer, they use it all the time. Even if they buy a six-pack, they get to enjoy a number of beverages over time.
Not so with their gift to you. It’s one and done. Unless…
• You shower your donor with communications showing what her gift made possible.
• You provide your donor continuing reward.
• You ascribe the donation an overarching purpose.
The ongoing reward you provide in exchange for the donor’s gift is not tangible, but it’s meaningful nonetheless.
And it’s work. For you.
• You need a plan for this work.
• You must assign staff and resources to this work.
• You must prioritize this work.
Rewarding Your Donor May Be Your Most Important Work
Donor communication is a wonderful thing, because you’re:
• Constantly reminding your donor of the good thing they did (people will tend to repeat good behaviors because they want to be consistent (see "Influence," by Robert Cialdini).
• Patting your donor on the back, over and over again, saying “nice job” (flattery will, indeed, get you everywhere. When you help people feel loved, you help them attain the highest goal to which most people aspire in their search for meaning).
• Reminding your donor of the issue that’s dear to their heart, so they stay connected and inspired (this sets up your next gift strategy).
• Helping your donor to continue feeling the warm glow they felt when the first rush of dopamine hit them after making their gift.
Ask. Thank. Report. Repeat.
Listen to this podcast on Fundraising is Beautiful, and read my article, “1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always Its Own Reward.” Share with your leadership. Enroll your team in my 4-week e-course, "The Power of Thank You."
Do your utmost to persuade your “powers that be” of the importance of your communications program to your fundraising program.
This is why I continually plead with organizations to integrate marketing and fundraising. They must work together. Please don’t silo these functions.
The key to effective, rewarding donor communications is making them about the donor. Say “you did this,” not “we did this.” And don’t succumb to the trap of saying “our organization did this” either.
Convey the Donor’s Awesomeness, Not Your Own
• Good fundraising is not bragging.
• Good fundraising is sharing results and attributing them to the giver.
Start channeling your attitude of gratitude now, and begin to incorporate this attitude into every communication you have. Your asks. Your thanks. Your reports. Your events. Your one-to-one visits.
Begin by asking yourself this one simple question: “Why am I grateful to this donor (or these donors)?
Really be thoughtful before you respond.
• You may be thankful they opened and read the letter you took a lot of time to prepare.
• You may be thankful they helped you leverage a challenge grant.
• You may be thankful they put you over your goal and made you look good.
• Or maybe it’s just that they moved your mission forward.
Think about it and reflect for a moment.
Because of donors, more children will get food. Fewer people will become victims of violence. More sick people will be healed. Fewer rivers will stay polluted. More trees will be planted. Fewer women will be abused. More animals will be rescued. Fewer families will live on the streets. More veterans will get benefits. Fewer disadvantaged youth will drop out of school. More inner-city kids will be transported by their first theatrical experience. The list goes on and on…
Embrace What Your Donor Does That Makes You Grateful
When you sit down to figure out how you’ll let your donor know how they’ve made you feel, channel this attitude of gratitude.
That’s when genuine relationship-building—the kind that deepens and grows over time—begins.
I am grateful to you for reading this article. And for all that you do.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.