10 Mistakes Not to Make With Your Donors

by Mark Dreistadt | Mar 1, 2016 | Consulting, Fundraising


Assume Your Donors Know All About Your Organization

In anything we do it is important to master the fundamentals. Often organizations get so caught up in the busyness of fundraising tactics that they forget about the fundamentals. There are Four Fundamentals every donor needs to know and understand about your organization.

  1. Your Purpose – the need you meet
  2. Your Mission – your inspiring plan of action
  3. Your Vision – how things will change
  4. Their Role – How they can make a difference

The more effectively you communicate these Four Fundamentals, the more your donors will engage and support your organization’s work.


Don’t Make Branding a Priority

Donors quickly forget… It is important for every non-profit to keep its purpose, mission, and vision clearly and consistently articulated to their donors. Define your brand and shout it from the rooftops. There are four components to an effective brand: clarity, consistency, frequency, and time.


Don’t Connect Donors to Your Purpose

Many organizations talk about their organization and invite donors to support its work. However, it is far more effective to connect the donors directly to people’s needs – show them how their investment can make a difference – then invite them to change lives, communities, and cultures through their generous support.


Don’t Thank Your Donors Immediately

I learned many years ago that a warm thank you means a lot. The sooner donors are thanked the more effective it becomes. Statistically, every day that transpires before a donor receives a “thank you” for their gift reduces the probability of a repeat gift by 1%. In other words, if a donor receives a thank you 10 days after they send a gift – there is a 90% probability of a repeat gift. If it takes 30 days, then the probability goes down to 70%. The sooner a donor is thanked, the more likely they will give to your organization once again. That’s why receipt letters expressing sincere thanks need to go out as quickly as possible.


Don’t Directly Ask for The Gift

Many organizations are far too timid about asking for a contribution. They will often write appeals that are informative and interesting – but not compelling. People respond best to a direct request. Yet, all too often the actual “ask” is buried in the last paragraph or PS of the letter. Remember the Four Fundamentals… #4 is to tell the donor how they can make a difference. Do it clearly; do it specifically; do it boldly in every letter. If the donor understands your purpose, believes in your mission, and shares you vision – they are just waiting for a clear pathway to personally make a difference. People never give because they should – they give because you ask!


Beg, Manipulate, or Demand

Unfortunately, there are organizations that tend to use “strong-arm” tactics to try to motivate donors to give. These organizations sometimes experience a short-term gain – but they always experience a long-term loss. Donor communication must be built on integrity, honesty, and a sincere and compelling God-given vision. Tell your story accurately – paint the vision of a new and different future because of your donors’ generosity. Donors love to give to bold and audacious vision.


Talk About the Internal Operations of Your Organization

All too frequently donor appeal letters talk about the internal developments within an organization and use these developments as a presumed motivation to give. While these insights may be important to someone who works inside the organization – they are frequently far less important to donors. Donors care about the lives that are being changed and the impact of their investment. The primary focus of all donor communication needs to be results – framed in a creative expression of the Four Fundamentals. Donors give to changed lives.


Don’t Analyze Your Fundraising Efforts

Many organizations we start working with have a high level of “white mail” – that is mail from an unknown source. A high level of white mail indicates both a weakness in the donor communication system and a subsequent lack of understanding about the organization’s donors. By properly coding all appeals and providing measurable response channels an organization can learn a lot about their donors and how they respond. Ultimately, this leads to lower costs and more efficient donor communications.


Ignore Problems and Hope Donors Won’t Notice

I have seen many organizations whose policy was to be as tight-lipped as possible about problems facing their organization. When problems arise they tend to manage by waiting – and hoping everything will blow over. In the meantime, donors exit and look for other organizations they can support. The best solution to major problems is four-fold:

  1. Address the problem quickly and decisively
  2. Speak about the problem openly and honestly
  3. Solicit prayer from trusted friends and partners
  4. Make donors part of the solution


Don’t Build Relationships with Your Donors

People give to people. An organization needs to see their donors as more than a vending machine where you send out a letter and receive cash. They need to see their donors as real people and partners in ministry. Real people have ideas, opinions, preferences, and concerns. Have you asked your donors about theirs? Do you treat your donors as real people? When you do, they will become your valued partners and trusted friends.

Mark Dreistadt

Stay Informed!

Join thousands of subscribers who love our content! Subscribe for the latest insights.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.