“Why are fundraisers still doing this?!” This is something that Richard and I regularly say to one another as we hear of another example of the inconceivable things that non-profits do that hurt their relationships with donors.
Now, of course these are not intentional. Usually people have the best of intentions. But it’s amazing how non-profits forget the role a donor plays in carrying out the mission. And when we treat donors as a means to an end, instead of seeing them as partners in our mission, it’s going to show up in their giving.
Here’s 21 things that non-profits do that are hurting their donor relationships:
- When you send an appeal out to your donor, you address it as “Dear Donor” or worse yet, get their name wrong.
- You ask for a gift, the donor gives you a gift, then you take a month or more to thank them.
- The donor gives you a gift, you thank them (finally), but you never report back the impact that gift made.
- You see that your donor retention rate is about 40% overall and you decide, “Well that’s just the standard in our business,” and don’t address it.
- You analyze your donor file and find out your value attrition rates year over year are between 40-60%, so you double down on new donor acquisition.
- You invest heavily in new donor acquisition, but you have no mid, major, or planned giving program to help the donor invest at higher levels to fund your programs.
- You allow your major gift officers to have hundreds of unqualified donors in their portfolios, hoping that the larger the portfolio, the greater chance of getting that $1MM dollar gift.
- You don’t have an internal system that helps the organization know how the real cost of their projects and programs (including overhead).
- You instruct major gift officers to just ask donors to give generally, for operations.
- You leave out the emotion of fundraising and only report on facts and figures, with no stories of how you are changing the world.
- You are not transparent.
- You don’t figure out how your donors want to be communicated with, so you do want you want to do.
- If a donor gives you a large gift to fund a project and the project doesn’t go as planned, instead of communicating that to the donor, you hide the problem.
- You don’t have a planned giving program because it’s “too much trouble” right now.
- Your KPIs for your frontline fundraiser focus on face-to-face meetings and the number of phone calls and emails they send out to donors.
- You have a donor who gives $5,000 every year, but you never challenge that donor to give more because you’re afraid they will get upset and not give you the $5,000 gift.
- You have a donor database that doesn’t allow you to create an individual revenue goal or a strategic plan for every donor in your portfolio.
- You spend as much time with a $1,000 a year donor as you do a $100,000 a year donor.
- The CEO refuses to ask donors for a gift.
- The only time you interact with donors is at an event.
- You don’t allow program folks to interact with donors.
I’m going to leave this list at 21. I could go on and on, but if your non-profit worked on these 21, you’d be in a much better, donor-centered place as an organization.
Donors are not a means to an end.
They are the lifeblood of helping you carry out your mission. Treat them as such.