What simple step you can take today to increase donors tomorrow

February 18, 2011

A recent Facebook post from the Nonprofit Technology Network pointed out the need to regularly get feedback. “It sounds like we need to spice up our 11NTC orientation webinars; Today we left the lines un-muted and overheard an attendee telling her co-worker “I’m on a webinar…no, I’m on mute…it’s boring.” Any suggestions?”


But kudos to NTEN for their openness in sharing and their desire to improve.

What would YOU hear if you overheard a donor talking about your organization?

Would you hear “I’ve sent XYZ a donation every year now for three years. The only time I hear from them is when they want money.”

Donor centric fundraising is not about you. It’s about the needs of your donor. As Joanne Wallace put it so succinctly during a recent Twitter chat on donor-centric fundraising: “Donors don’t care so much about what we do. They care about what they can do through us. Donor-centric is remembering this.”

Early on in my own fundraising career — well before I’d taken any AFP courses, before I’d read any nonprofit development books — the great marketing classics navigated me through my first few years. And what I did in my initial two weeks on the job was to shape a hugely successful annual campaign.

I queried our database to find 20 most loyal donors – individuals who had given over a minimum of $100 every year for 7 to 10 years.

I drafted a simple letter of thanks for their continued support, along with an introduction, and a brief survey asking why they had contributed regularly for X number of years, and including a self-addressed, stamped return envelope.

All but two responded.

Several sent in substantial checks, although I had made no mention of money.

Their responses were illuminating.  They were poignant and sometimes humorous.  And they provided me with inspiration beyond measure.

Surveying your supporters doesn’t have to be the complex task many professionals will tell you it is. I put together my packet and sent it out in one morning.

As Dale Carnegie noted so many years ago: “if there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kivi Leroux Miller February 18, 2011 at 6:16 am

So simple, so easy, so powerful!

Betsy Baker February 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I love to hear personal anecdotes about how advice you’re dispensing actually works! Thanks for an informative post.

Bunnie Riedel February 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

Nice idea about having a communication in which you don’t ask for money!

Amy Eisenstein February 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Great post, Pamela! Thanks for sharing the idea of writing to loyal donors for feedback and suggestions. I always tell my clients to ask their donors open-ended questions to learn more about them. Your strategy is specific, concrete and easy and I will be sending people to read this post!

Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE February 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Ditto to Kivi and Amy’s comments. Brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness.

Sherry Truhlar February 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for sharing such a great example, Pamela. Being reminded of the basics can go along way in meeting our goals.

Brett Ridge May 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I love this idea! Why guess at the reasons for your success? Too often nonprofits gravitate toward focusing on what is frustrating people instead of focusing on what is making them happy. What a great way to find great stories to tell!

Sarah Neale July 26, 2012 at 6:52 am

The Grow report is one of my favorites, Pam. Thaks fopr w eeekly shot in the arm
I want to try the donor project you wrote about. What were the survey questions you asked?

Cassie Shaker October 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

I am wondering what questions you asked in your survey? I am drafting a survey that I would like to send out soon, and I am wondering what questions should be on it?

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