Have you ever experienced that heartrending feeling of posting something to Facebook only to have no response? You craft this post, thinking your friends and family will love it, only to watch the hours go by with not even a single like or comment.
Maybe you’ve never had this experience, but it’s not a pleasant feeling. It can seem like you’re shouting into an empty room, or worse: you’re shouting into a crowded room with all of your closest friends ignoring you.
Like any other industry or sector, causes must break through an endless amount of noise that donors are trying to sift through. This information overload blocks the two-way conversation between us (the nonprofits) and our donors. But just because they don’t react to our messages doesn’t mean they don’t care, nor does it mean they won’t still give.
I’ve had a chance to conduct interviews with donors in order to understand their giving preferences. It’s clear they generally want to be supportive of the causes they care deeply about; but when positioned with a solicitation they fail to respond.
Why? It comes down to a combination of our expectations and donors feeling a little uninspired.
Make Me Want to Give Right Now
We expect every donor to love us all the time – to give when we ask no matter how the method. We have to face it that donors have multiple interests and your cause is just one of them. They see your work as an opportunity to affect their passion in order to ‘do good’ work. I am not saying you should get rid of some of your solicitations, but be mindful that not every donor is ready each and every time to give when you ask. And it is ok to tell donors, we thank you for your past gift and right now it is important for you to understand the reason I am asking you again – this is a special request or there is something more relevant. Make them feel like they need to break out the wallet again in your message.
Donors Get Bored With Your Same Solicitations
This year you have gone out of your way to dust off the old end of year appeal and change an image and some of the text. Now all that is left to do is send it out and money will just come in. Well, it won’t happen. Donors have told us time and time again during interviews that they get bored with the same message. Tired of the same type of newsletters and public relations messages that inspired them the first time but now has become old news. When a donor gives, the organization is at the top of their mind. This ‘honeymoon phase’ is an exciting time to get them more involved not wait to see if they react to the next direct mail. This is a time to pick up the phone, ask the donor about communication, volunteer, and event preferences. A time to discuss anything new they want to see, information about the cause they want to send to their friends and family, and expectations they have with the organization. It is a time to inform them of the latest challenges and how they can get involved in solving them – serving and using their skills for the organization through committees (online and offline), advisory roles, and focus groups. All of these small acts create an opportunity for the donor to grow with the organization – if they have an interest in doing so.
Donors care about your work, but don’t make it easy for them to move on. Challenge yourself to involve a donor in at least one activity within 30 days of giving. You may be surprised at how your donor retention improves.
Derrick is founder and CEO of Achieve. He co-authored the book "Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement" and serves on the board for International Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Nonprofit Board Report. He is also a writer for Philanthropy News Digest of the Foundation Center and the Huffington Post IMPACT channel, a member of the Leadership Faculty of the Points of Light Corporate Institute and a guest lecturer for the School of Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.