The Consequences of Not Reporting Back

Talk back to your donors.One tiny report makes a tremendous amount of difference, because it closes the giving loop.

Just last week I heard about some MGOs who closed the reporting-back loop successfully, but another didn’t. The contrast is stunning.

Those that closed the loop told their donors that their gifts made a difference, and they had the following relational experiences:

  • A $5K donor was asked for $6K but gave $75,000
  • A $10K donor gave $100K
  • A donor who gave $100K last year gave $350K three months ago – then gave another $250K last month.

What is the critical difference? Telling the donor that her gift made a difference. That’s it. Nothing more. Just that act alone is powerful to the donor, as she realizes that what she dreamed about doing actually happened!

And then there is this story…

A donor from a Midwest charity (not a client of Veritus Group) had regularly been giving $400,000 a year to a specific project in a Midwestern city you would immediately recognize if I mentioned it.

The MGO had done a fantastic job of matching the donor’s passions and interests to this project, which is why the donor got on board.

But the MGO could not get information from the program people to give to the donor to tell him “you made a difference.” He tried and tried, but no good and specific information was forthcoming.

So, yep, you guessed it. This good donor had been giving a substantial amount every year, but he just went away.


Because he didn’t KNOW he made a difference through his giving.

One tiny report makes a tremendous difference. But for some reason it just does not happen as it should – more times than you will believe. It’s a disease that’s endemic to the non-profit world. We have gotten really good at getting money. But we have, essentially, made very little progress on fulfilling the promise that donors would make a difference if they gave.

Let me personalize a bit. How do you feel when you do something for someone and they never talk back? How do you feel when you write someone an email – someone who is a “good” friend – and they just ignore you? How do you feel when you thought you had a good, mutual, transparent relationship with someone, and then you find out you don’t?

You feel terrible. You feel betrayed. You feel diminished. And it hurts.

That is what happens when you’ve worked so hard on the front end to get the donor to give the money but then there is silence or, at the most, an inadequate response on the back-end after the gift.

Think about this dynamic with all of your caseload donors. How can you close the giving loop in the coming weeks?




  • Amanda Fabrizio-Grzesik says:

    So true! We’re always on the hunt to get donors, but we can forget about the stewardship. Thank you for this reminder!

  • jessica says:

    When do you believe is generally the best timeframe for a follow-up report? We have employed different strategies in the past but are unsure if we’re following up too soon or too late. In the case of a renovated space for cats, we prepared a report to each of the funders upon the one year anniversary and gave stories and stats related to the past year. Recently we took in a group of neglected horses, it could be months before many or most are adopted. Some feel we should send a report soon so donors have more immediate feedback (although we are in the early stages of the horses’ care); and others feel the report is more impactful if we send it once there are some/many success stories to report. Is there a best practice around this question of timing? And is it different when a person is making a major gift that is unrestricted, so success stories are readily available at any time?

  • Richard Perry says:

    Hi, Jessica. The best time to send a report is when it is logical to do it. If you have not to report on progress then it doesn’t make sense just to make something up and send it. Your horses example is a good one. There are some logical waypoints in their care, all of which would give you opportunity to report. The first one would be the adoption point where you can write the donor and tell her that a successful adoption has occurred “thanks to her support”. You mention stages of care. You could report in, briefly, at each stage, if you wanted to. So just in that example there are a number of times you could report. Do not think of a report as this huge document with all the particulars. Instead it could be one piece of information with a thanks attached. I don’t think what I said above is any different for an unrestricted gift. You are looking for milestones of progress to report back on.

  • jessica says:

    Thanks Richard!

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