If you want ongoing, sustainable, repeatable, predictable revenue for your nonprofit, you MUST work on building donor relations.

There’s no way around it.

If you were a farmer and wanted a steady supply of milk from your cow, you’d have to take care of your cow, right?

You’d have to feed her and make sure she has water. You’d have the vet check her over regularly and make sure she gets plenty of pasture time.

You can’t just expect the cow to take care of herself. It doesn’t work that way.

donor relations

Similarly, if you want your donors to give money over and over again, it’s YOUR JOB to make them feel like they’re part of the team and that they’re needed.

You see, it’s about a relationship between your donor and your nonprofit.

The truth is this: People only stay in relationships that they’re getting something out of.

When they feel unneeded, unappreciated, or bored, they leave.

Most nonprofits do a TERRIBLE job of understanding their donors and giving them what they need. That’s why donor retention rates across the board are so awful.

The bad news is that you’re probably destroying donor relationships without even realizing it.

Things you’re doing to kill donor relations

If you’re not consciously paying attention to your donors, you’re probably ignoring them, which is detrimental to relationships.

In order to nurture and grow a relationship, you have to pay attention to it. And if you’re like most people working in the nonprofit world, you’re so busy trying to hack through your “To Do” list that you don’t have TIME to give to donors.

But you’re going to have to change that if you want people to stick around and support you for the long haul.

You have to develop donor radar and have it on all the time.

Otherwise, you’ll have a tiny donor base that doesn’t give enough to support your operations.

donor relationsIn your busyness, you’re focused on what you have to get done and what you need. It’s called ego-centric thinking and it’s the biggest killer of donor relationships.

When you start speaking Fundraising French (“we, we, we” or “we, us, our”), you lose donors.

You become like that friend that only talks about themselves. You know the one – the one you can’t wait to get away from!

Or maybe you’re treating your donor like she’s just an ATM. Every time you show up, you have your hand out asking for money. Trust me, for a donor, that gets really old, really fast.

Your donor wants to know that you value her for more than just her money.

There are lots of other ways you may be crushing the relationship.

You may be

  • Using lots of insider language and jargon your donor doesn’t understand, which may make her feel like an outsider and if that happens, she’ll stop giving very soon.
  • Including wayyyy too much text and stats, with no emotion which bores her.
  • Not offering updates or stories of how her donation has made a difference. This is what she really wants and you’re keeping it from her!
  • Making it hard for her to give (where IS that Donate button anyway??).
  • Ignoring your donor’s needs or pushing her away with any number of impersonal actions.

If any of this is hitting too close to home, that’s good news, because the first step in any good 12-step program is admitting you have a problem. THAT’S when you can start to fix it.

Things you can do to BUILD donor relations

donor relationship

Want to keep the goose laying golden eggs? It’s simple: take care of the goose.

Donors are the same. Take care of them and they’ll keep giving.

But first, you have to understand what she wants.

Here’s a quick list:

  1. She wants to make a difference. Even if she can only give a small gift, she wants to feel important and know that her gift matters.
  2. She wants to know the outcome. What happened with her donation? Did it help? Were lives changed?
  3. She wants to be thanked and appreciated. Thank every donor every time for a donation. The End. Do a good job of thanking donors and they’ll be very likely to give again.

It’s pretty easy to give your donor what she wants. Think of her as a partner in your work. Thank her for her donations. Give her regular updates about the good work your nonprofit is doing. Keep her in the loop, especially about the things that warm your heart or worry you. She’ll probably feel the same way.

The bottom line is this: It’s all about the donor experience and how she feels.

So, give her what I call a “touch the pearls” moment. Surprise and delight her so that her hand goes to her neck and she says “WOW! I love that nonprofit. They do such good work.”

Make her feel good about her decision to give to you.