You worked hard to find donors. Now don’t lose them!

We’re 10 days into the new year, which means it’s a great time for some of us to reflect on our organizations’ year-end fundraising efforts, our personal giving decisions, or both. Here’s a report (a PDF) from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that affirms:

  • Nonprofits of every size and description make a special effort to identify supporters and secure additional support in the closing weeks, days, and even hours of the year. (Network for Good has an entire year-end fundraising guide if you’re already looking ahead to 2012 holiday season.)
  • Sadly, a large number of those donors won’t be found in the roster of supporters during the following year.
  • And, if you look closely, there’s an amazing range from the most to the least successful organizations when it comes to maintaining a strong group of supporters who renew their gifts year after year.

Finding new donors is much more difficult (and expensive) than staying in touch with people who already know about the organization and have shown their interest through making a donation. So why do so many organizations spend so much time trying to reach new donors, rather than building relationships with the old ones?

Why don’t donors continue to give?

Of course, there are some perfectly good reasons why a donor might give once and never again – such as gifts that celebrate a milestone or great accomplishment, or a memorial gift that honors a person who has passed on.

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Beth Kanter posted this photo to Flickr with a thank you note and update to donors after her campaign raised money for students in Cambodia. (Photo: cambodia4kidsorg / Creative Commons)

But the most common reason donors offer for not continuing to support an organization is lack of information about what has been accomplished with the money given so far before there’s a request for more. Finding out what donors want to know and making sure to tell them during the year is just as important—maybe even more important—than getting the year-end appeal in the mail on time.

What savvy development professionals can do

Looking ahead to the 2012 fundraising program, you’re probably already thinking about your communications with donors and prospective donors. How will you tell them—clearly, accurately, and persuasively—what the work they have supported is accomplishing and how important this support is to the morale of the people who do it? The books listed toward the end of the 2011 Donor Retention Supplement (the first link on that page) are full of ideas on how to do this well.

What savvy donors can do

If you’re looking ahead to the contributions you might make in 2012, consider your own priorities. What kind of community do you want to live in? What kind of world do you hope to see? Then find out which organizations are most likely to bring those visions to life.

If you have lingering questions about organizations you’ve supported in the past, you’ll do them a favor by asking. The request doesn’t need to be a demand, and the response doesn’t need to be a burden. If you can spark better communication between an organization and the donors who support it, that will be good for organization and donor alike.

How do you plan to communicate with your supporters (or learn more about the organizations you support) this year?

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Comments (3)


  1. Daniel Prater writes:
    January 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    This is wonderful advice also for any *entrepreneur* trying to raise funds for their business. Either non-profit, or for-profit, all donors want the same thing: to do good where *they* feel good needs to be done. (Some investors seek just more money but these are not the majority. Honestly. They’re not.)

    My advice is continuously to communicate with donors what is being done with their money. You can never just ask for more.

    ***Recognize that donors donate to be *personally* involved in the process of doing good.***

    Use this fact to everyone’s mutual advantage. Find a way to connect with your donors.

    Thank you for writing this post!


  2. [...] You Worked Hard to Find Donors. Now Don’t Lose Them! [Idealistblog] 0 Comments [...]


  3. Wyllem Damus writes:
    January 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I want few volunteers come to work with children in Haiti by March 2012.


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