The FIVE Failures of How to Lose a Donor


Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 5.35.25 PM

Have you ever wondered why people donate to a particular cause or organization? What about why they continue to donate each and every year? Usually, those moments to donate are often unplanned and unscheduled within your life. Regardless of the cause, when a person donates, the gift itself is meant to be bigger than the purchase. So what compels people to donate, especially those who donate year after year?

The answer is simple. People give because they want to be bigger than themselves. They see these donations not just as a way to give back, but also a way to impact another life. As a fundraiser, it is your responsibility to provide that donor with excellent customer satisfaction, especially one that they will remember. By providing this great experience, you will be able to reaffirm their decision to continue their generous relationship with your organization within the future.

However, many charities and nonprofit organizations seem to lose out on the opportunity to retain previous donors. This can be extremely problematic if the trend continues. Think of this as a leaking bucket full of water. No matter how much you put in, there will always be an X amount going out. To grow, you need to treat your organization like a business. I am not saying that you have to run the industry like a Wall Street banking firm. Instead, you need to treat each donor with high quality customer interaction. Below, I have shared FIVE of the biggest mistakes an organization can make with their donors. Make sure you do not fall within these pits. Any of these mistakes can be a huge red flag for your organization and loss opportunities.

1. Failure to Communicate

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can do is not reaching out to their donors. Failure to communicate to these individuals can capitalize your relationship with them in the future. Keep your organization in the front of their minds by updating your sites, sending emails, and reaching out to them in any other appropriate manner, you will be able to stay in constant contact about how their donations are truly transforming the cause for the better. In addition, try and be personal in the emails. Yes, this can be meticulous, especially if you are dealing with a large number. But the more personal you are, the strong your relationship can be in the future.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 5.36.02 PM

2. Failure to Thank Them Well

There is nothing worse than donating to a nonprofit or charity and never being thanked. Many people donate to these causes because they either value your beliefs or bought into your vision. Because of this, it is vital that you reach out to every individual and provide him or her a strong thank you letter. Make sure you are personal. The one big mistake big charities and nonprofit organizations make is that they usually send out a very generic thank you email. When writing your email, go a little bit in-depth of their reason and what you will be expecting to see from their donation.

3. Failure with Efficiency

In any organization, the logistics and efficiency need to be on point. Every meticulous detail from the way your employees talk to a customer to the way the donor’s donations are handled will be vital in attaining and completing the transactions. Oftentimes, people will donate because it can be a simple and easy process. Make sure this is exactly that. Any barriers or hoops a donor will have to jump through will usually end with them being frustrated or worse, them canceling their donation. As a manager or business leader in your nonprofit organization, take a look of the day-to-day procedures of how people handle calls and donations. If you can find an easier way for the transaction, try implementing it within your system.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 5.36.42 PM

4. Failure to Pay Attention

In order to keep that retention high, make sure you get to know your donors on a personal level. Know the live events that are happening and plan accordingly. In addition, be either sensitive or aggressive with that campaign. Depending on who they are, he or she may be an individual who likes to get monthly updates. If you do find these overly enthusiastic donors, make sure you are reaching out to know. Get to know their reasons, beliefs, and stories of why they are so passionate and try and find events or opportunities in which they can spend their time being involved. By doing this, you will be able to build a strong and sustainable relationship that can last for years to come.

5. Failure to Reach Out Again

Oftentimes, when asked, donors need to consult with their families or their financial planners before making a decision to continue. Make sure you reach back out to the donor if you have not heard back from them within a week timeframe. It is your duty to follow up and engage with them about continuing their impact. If they do seem hesitant, remind them why they gave in the first place or switch them to a lower tier package. At the end of the day, it is not about the amount, but about the relationship you can continue with your donor.

The Four ‘Knows’ Before Fundraising


There is no perfect formula for fundraising. But like any business, it is absolutely vital that you and your colleagues are well prepped in the logistical information in order for you to reach your big goal. For many people that goal can be a couple hundred dollars. For others that goal is a couple million, maybe even billion, dollars. Regardless of the goal, the determination to succeed all comes down to the prep work.

Below, you will find four things a person must know before they start fundraising. While you make tackle this in your own way, following these lessons can give you that leg up you need in raising money for your organization.

Know the Product

There are many passionate and personable presenters out there. But regardless of who they are, if you do not know your product, you will not get that support or for this situation, that donation. In other words, it helps to know and communicate your product or mission in a clear concise manner. Many people call this the elevator pitch. To an extent, this is just the introduction. When you talk about your product (or your organization), it is imperative that you know the founders, the background history, how the company or product came to be, why it came to be, and of course future goals. Having this as an introduction to your pitch shows that you are not only informative about your organization, but also passionate about its mission. In addition, the best way to grab someone’s attention is to answer all of his or her unanswered questions. Make sure you are to deliver that level of knowledge before you ask for their donation.

Know Your Market

When setting up various venues, meet-and-greets, or phone conversations, it is important to have an understanding of the overall market. Similar to knowing your own product, make sure you know and understand the people you are talking to. Knowing your market, or audience, has a strong advantage in how you approach each pitch and each donation. This fundamental practice gives you enough insight in how to integrate your cause for your organization. It also gives you a complete understanding on the donation you are looking to receive. For fundraising, we often find two types of investors. The first are the ‘impact investors,’ individuals who are invested in the organization’s or venture’s mission and business model. These investors measure the success of their investment and look to see the overall organization as a whole thrive. The second type of investor is what we call a ‘financial investor,’ an individual looking to partner with your business or organization to increase his or her own ROI. This type of investor is usually found with entrepreneurs or businesses rather than nonprofit organizations.

3. Know Your Numbers

This is probably the breaking point in landing a big investor or donor. Having a strong knowledge of the overall numbers for your organization can strongly affect and persuade a person in giving you money. This applies to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Just like knowing your product, you need to really understand the numbers of the organization, the industry, the market, the customers, the products, and the overall operations. Taking that into play, knowing how to handle donors money and where it can be optimized and leveraged to its fullest can ease every investor in why they need to donate. This type of easy-yet-knowledgeable communication is something people want to hear and what to see. At the end of the day, these donors want to know that they are having an impact. So show them through the numbers.

4. Know Your Pitch

Mark Twain once said that, “twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” Whether you realize it or not, the minute you speak about your organization, you become the face of your product and your cause. Spend time crafting your emails and changing your overall online presence. In addition, make sure you practice your pitch. At times this can be tedious, and frankly time consuming, but at the end of the day the amount of work is worth it. You want to be able to get to a point in which you can adapt and leverage your speech in specific ways for your audience. The key here is to not simply memorize your speech, but to internalize it in a more optimal way.

Is Your Fundraising on the Right Track?

Man analyzing financial data and charts on computer screen

No matter what industry you are in, internalizing a holistic view on the progress of your cause or your project can give you the necessary strategy for future steps. This type of healthy development requires that style of internal reflection so that you can truly pave the path in reaching your financial goals at a timely manner.

Regardless if you are for-profit or non-profit, having these talks can benefit your cause greatly. For the private sector, this is usually done through quarterly annual reports, which breaks down the overall revenue, expense, and net profit a company attains within a three-month span. For non-profits, this type of analysis varies from organization to organization.

To help non-profits with this dilemma, below, you will find three key questions you and your team will need to ask themselves to see if your company is heading in the right path. If there is any hesitation or uncertainty for any of these questions, then you need to make sure you are able to attack that problem to its fullest. Keep in mind, this is standard in any company or organization. The best thing to do is to look at these gaps as windows for opportunity so that you can improve your logistics for the betterment of your cause.

1. When will you be sending your next donation newsletter? (Who is responsible for that? How will you market why they should donate today?)

For this question, it requires a variety of answers to fully grasp your next strategic moves. When you are looking for donations, there needs to be a way for you to reach out to the public. This can be done through actual newsletters or via email. The key thing is planning deadlines and responsibilities for your team so that you can meet your goals. These deadlines, also known as action steps, will be crucial in reaching future donors for the next up and coming months. In addition, for every newsletter, you want to continue raising awareness of why your cause needs more financial support. Just having the same speech is not enough to make a strong or compelling case to your donors. To get your team running strong, think of compelling reasons of what the funding can do for your cause. Will it be used to hire a new team or will it be used to help fund the equipment? These answers to these questions will give your pitch a stronger essence for your future donors.

2. What is your Donor Retention Rate?

By definition, a donor retention rate is a measure of how many of last year’s donors gave again this year. Donor movement is a fundamental discipline of strong organizations. You must have a plan for moving your donors through the fundraising funnel. In addition, not only are you looking to add to this pool of donors, but you also want to keep those for their contributed support, especially the big ones. Ask yourself a variety of questions such as: How many people from last year donated again? If they did not donate what was their reason? How many of the big donors did not donate this year? What is our future plans to have them donate again? Answering these types of questions will give you a stronger understanding of the people who are supporting your cause. In addition, this information will give you more knowledge on the overall numbers you are attaining in a calendar year.

3. How Many of Your Current Donors Came through Referrals?

At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are knowledgeable of the overall numbers. As much as some sales are done through a your own efforts, many donors come from referrals through current donors, board members, volunteers, and supporters. Make sure you know the number and the people on this list. These are investors who are supporting the growth and development of your cause. In addition, show them how impactful their donations have been to the overarching development of your organization’s goal.