/, Donor Relations/“Dear Fundraiser…” 46 things you’re doing that push your nonprofit donors away

“Dear Fundraiser…” 46 things you’re doing that push your nonprofit donors away

Hi there. This is your nonprofit donor speaking.

I’m not sure you’ll get this message – we don’t seem to have very good 2-way communication.

But on the outside chance that you might be listening, I wanted to share some things that you do that really bother me.

Some of them are little and some are big. All of them matter to me, and I bet they matter to your other donors, too.

I want you to be successful. I believe in the work you’re doing. My hope is that by sharing my thoughts and feelings, you’ll learn how to better interact with me, which would make it easier and more fun for me to support you.

Hope that makes sense.

So, here we go.


General Communications

  1. Misspelled words. Oh, this is a pet peeve. When you have misspelled words in your emails and newsletters, it makes me wonder if what you’re writing matters to you. I really want you to be professional, because it makes me feel more confident when I give you money. Misspelled words make me question whether you’re the best charity for me to support.
  2. Poor grammar. Ditto from above.
  3. Jargon & Acronyms. There are so many things you write that mean nothing to me. I don’t understand the acronyms. Please excuse my ignorance and keep it simple so I can easily understand.
  4. Insider language. I don’t understand the slang and I feel like an outsider when I see it.
  5. Too much text. Maybe your other donors read everything you write, but I just don’t have time. When I see a page full of text, I cringe inside. Honestly, I don’t have time to read it, even if it’s important.
  6. Confusing program names or logos. I don’t understand sometimes what you’re talking about – are there multiple organizations here? Or are these programs? I can’t tell. It may make sense to you, but I don’t get it.
  7. Unclear or vague communication. Sometimes you send me things that I just can’t figure out. Are you thanking me, giving me an update or asking for money? Please be clear so that I don’t have to wonder what you’re doing.
  8. No emotion. I love reading stories about lives you’re changing. They make me feel proud that I’m helping make something happen. Some of the things you send me have no emotion in them and they’re very dry and hard to read. You may think it’s professional, but I find it boring.
  9. No photos. I love to see your work in action! Please share more good photos!
  10. Bad photos. Some of the photos you share don’t hit the mark. The people are all standing in a line and far away. I can’t see their faces to tell if I know any of them.
  11. Not responding to my call or email promptly. If I have a question and call you or email, please get back to me in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, I wonder if you got my message, or if you’re just so busy you can’t get back to me.
  12. Being rude or unfriendly. I get it that you and your co-workers are busy. But it sure hurts my feelings when I call or visit and people are unfriendly, especially if I’ve gone out of my way.
  13. Not giving me a way to come see your work for myself. I’d love to have a tour of your program. Why don’t you offer a tour that I could participate in? It doesn’t have to be private – I’d be happy to be part of a group.
  14. Being too predictable. I won’t even open an email with a subject line of “March Newsletter.” I can guess what’s inside. Give me some real juice – tell me some real stories of things you’re doing that matter. I want to know.
  15. Being mediocre. What are you doing that’s really exciting and making a difference? I don’t want to support organizations that are simply keeping the doors open. I want to be part of something that’s changing our community!


Requests for money

  1. Constantly asking for money without any real reason why. Why is it that almost every time I hear from you, you’re asking for money? And you don’t usually tell me what you’re going to do with the money. I like knowing what my donation will do.
  2. Asking for support for your Annual Fund or Annual Campaign. I don’t really care about those and honestly I don’t even understand what they are. Maybe you could put this into terms I can understand?
  3. Including too many statistics. I’m sure they’re important, but all those numbers are overwhelming.
  4. Including too many detailed updates. I’m not as familiar with your programs as you may think I am, and I don’t really understand all the stuff you share. I usually skip over those parts.
  5. Asking me to do too many things. When you ask me to donate, sign up to volunteer, and buy an event ticket in the same request, I’m not sure which one to do. I usually set that request aside to come back to it later, which of course, I don’t get around to. Please be clear. I’m happy to support you, but sometimes I just don’t know what to do to best help you.
  6. Making me search for the “donate” button on your website. I went online the other day to make a donation, and I looked all over your website, and still couldn’t figure out where to give. I’ve seen other sites where it was easy to donate – I wish your site was like that, too.
  7. Making me go through multiple pages and fill out too many forms to make a simple donation online. For some reason, I get really aggravated when I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to give online. Please make it simple. I don’t like it when it’s complicated!




  1. Not calling me back when I leave a message asking to volunteer or serve on a committee. I’d love to get more involved with your programs. And I don’t understand why no one calls me back. Aren’t you getting my voice mails?
  2. Having committee meetings where nothing is accomplished and it’s a complete waste of my time. Please run a good meeting so we can be productive and get things done. I can’t stand meetings where we talk in a circle and never really decide on anything or get anything done.
  3. Cancelling committee meetings or volunteer activities at the last minute and not telling me. Everyone’s time is important, and everyone deserves the courtesy of not having their time wasted. Just let me know if something is cancelled.
  4. Not being ready for me when I show up for my volunteer shift. When I carve time out of my schedule to volunteer, I expect you to be ready for me when I get there. I see it as a mutual commitment – I commit to come help, and you commit to being ready for me.
  5. Not helping me be ready to volunteer, like telling me what kind of shoes to wear or if I need to bring a lunch. Give me a heads up about what I need to know to have a good volunteer experience.
  6. Not making me feel welcome when I come to volunteer. I’m excited to become part of your team for the time I’m volunteering. Please make me feel valued and part of the time. I’m likely to come back again if I’m feeling good about it.
  7. Not showing me where the restroom is or giving me a break so I can use it. Basic things are important. Don’t expect me to work like a slave while I’m there. Just be hospitable and remember that I may not be used to this kind of work or working for extended periods of time. I may need more breaks than you usually take.
  8. Not relieving me at the end of my volunteer shift so that I can go home. Good Lord, this is important! Especially if you’ve told me how long my shift will be, and I can’t leave without someone else taking my spot. Don’t leave me hanging!



  1. Sending me an invitation to an event that happens this week. Come on! Give me a little more notice! I can’t just drop everything to attend your event.
  2. Making it hard to register. Another pet peeve! Don’t make me have to work hard to give you money to buy a ticket. Make the registration process easily and painless.
  3. Not giving me adequate information once I have registered, like where the event is being held, what time it starts, what to wear, or where to park. I’ll need details if you want me to actually show up to the event.
  4. Not giving me a way to tell you about my strict dietary needs. No explanation needed here.
  5. Not welcoming me or thanking me at the event. I attended an event recently where the volunteers at the registration table seemed really unhappy. No one welcomed me or thanked me for coming. I felt like I was somehow inconveniencing them.
  6. Letting the event drag on. Please put on a good event, with a program that moves along at a reasonable page. I hate it when programs drag and speakers are boring. I don’t usually go back after I have an experience like that. Who would?
  7. Making me wait in a LONG line to check out after the silent auction is over. Surely there’s technology you can use that will speed this process up. I once waited for almost 2 hours to check out after a silent auction closed. I was madder than a wet hen!
  8. Not telling me how much the event raised, or telling me months afterward. After the event, I’ll be curious to know how you did. Please tell me. Oh, and don’t make me wait months to find out. By then I will have forgotten.


After I’ve given

  1. Not thanking me. This is just rude. If I give you money, the least you can do is say “Thank you.”
  2. Thanking me weeks afterward. Why should it take weeks to send me a thank you letter? By then I’ve already either forgotten or given up on hearing from you, and either way, I’ve probably already decided not to give again.
  3. Sending the thank-you letter addressed to my husband when I was the one who made the decision to give and wrote the check. Got it?
  4. Sending me the same dry, boring letter you sent me last year. Surely there’s someone there who can write a nice, warm letter.
  5. Sending me a LONG thank-you letter, stuffed full of 25-cent words, with nothing that’s interesting to me. I don’t have time to read all that, and I know before I start that there’s nothing interesting in it.
  6. Including a reply envelope in the letter. Really? You can’t just thank me and leave it at that? Frankly, I’m insulted when you put an envelope in with the letter. It feels like all you want is my money.
  7. Not giving me any reason to think my gift made a difference or how it’s being used. I really want to make a difference. I want to be part of something good in this world. It would mean a lot to me if you could tell me that my money is changing someone’s life.
  8. Not providing me with a way to contact you or give you feedback. Maybe you could put the name and phone number or email of a specific person in the thank you letter. Sometimes I have a quick question and I’d love to know who to call.
By | 2015-03-18T13:05:42+00:00 March 18th, 2015|Donor Acknowledgement, Donor Relations|7 Comments

About the Author:

Sandy shows Founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big. Find out how ready YOU are to fully fund your nonprofit by taking our Quiz.


  1. Super post Sandy. You’ve include a lot of my pet peeves as well. I think nonprofit staff would be well-served to you this as a Checklist before hitting “send” on a donor communication, mailing a fundraising appeal, scheduling a volunteer event, or preparing their donor acknowledgement letter. Nice job!

    • Sandy Rees June 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks Claire! I wish more nonprofits would THINK before they print or hit “send.” We’d see a lot more groups raising more money.

  2. Emily Grimes July 25, 2015 at 10:15 am - Reply

    The very first pet peeve mentioned misspelled words … sadly I spotted a few! Otherwise, there is very good information here. Thanks!

    • Sandy Rees August 5, 2015 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Snort! Well, that’s embarrassing! If you’ll point them out, I can fix them.

  3. […] Sandy Rees recently updated her list of 46 things you’re doing that push your donors away. […]

  4. David Grissen December 29, 2015 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Wonderful content, Sandy. Thanks. Have a powerful year going forward in 2016!
    Dave Grissen

    • Sandy Rees January 14, 2016 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dave! Happy New Year to you as well!

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