Third in a three-part series: “Why Your Donors Aren’t Giving More”

You walk into your favorite restaurant and are seated at your preferred table – a booth in the corner.  Looking at the menu you’ve decided to order the special, a cup of tomato soup and a chicken salad sandwich.

The server stops by, and you place your order. Eight minutes later an appetizer of deep-fried dumplings plus a bowl of spaghetti shows up.  You call the server over and ask what happened.  And he says: “I am sure that’s what you said you wanted.”

You are in your favorite shoe store and ask to see a pair of black leather dress shoes, “Those ones right over there,” you say, pointing to the pair on display.  A few minutes later the customer service person brings you a pair of rubber boots and when you protest, he says: “I am sure that’s what you said you wanted.”

“Ridiculous examples!” you might say. “That would NEVER happen!” No, it probably wouldn’t.  At least not that stark of a change from order to delivery.

But this is exactly what happens in donor relationships in thousands of non-profits around the world, with millions of donors. It goes like this:

“I am interested in helping single moms with children get on their feet,” the donor says.  And the non-profit rep sends the donor information on giving opportunities with poor families.

Or “I am interested in clean water – anything you are doing in preserving waterways, lakes, etc. or even providing drinking water.”  And the non-profit insider delivers “our best opportunities in conservation” which includes an entire section on preserving forests, another one on the legal ramifications of land use and how the donor can help and a brief section on water.

Or the most familiar one is where the donor mentions a specific category or area and the insider sends the donor information on all the programs the non-profit does and asks for a general undesignated gift to “help where most needed”.

Jeff and I cannot understand why this happens. The donor, like my examples of customers above, names something specific that matches their passions and interests and they are totally ignored.

And then the insiders wonder why the donor doesn’t give more or why the donor has gone away.

This is so amazing and sad. We have said, repeatedly, that the passions and interests of the donor are what drive giving – that you should uncover and outrageously serve those passions and interests. This is not hard. But for some reason we do not do it. We think we can skip over all of that and just get the money.

That is what is wrong. And that is why donors are not giving more and going away at alarming numbers. We simply are not serving them well.

Think about this in your situation. Are you listening? Are you serving your donors well? If you are, they will be happy and fulfilled and will stay with you. AND they will give more. Take a look at each donor you are serving and make sure you can identify their passions and interests. Then make sure that all your communication – verbal, written, electronic – matches those passions and interests.

This is important.  And it will assure a healthy and honoring relationship with your donors.

There you have it – the end of this series on Why Your Donors Aren’t Giving More. I recommend that you take steps to do these three things as relates your mid, major, and planned giving relationships and asks:

  1. Tell your donors, each of them, that their giving is making a difference. Give them proof. Tell them stories of the difference they have made. And do this frequently.
  2. Manage the dynamic of membership, pledge programs, giving societies and the annual fund approach so that your donors know that their involvement at this level is just the beginning – so much more can be done.
  3. Identify and service each donor’s passions and interests. No shortcuts. Just do it. It’s the only way to manage your relationship with these good people.

If you pay attention to these three areas, Jeff and I can promise that you will retain more of your donors and their giving will go up. Try it.



Why Your Donors Aren’t Giving More Series:

  1. Your Donor Needs to Know Their Gift Is Making a Difference
  2. Membership Programs, Of Any Kind, Suppress Giving
  3. Go Ahead. Offend Your Donors by Not Listening (this post)