How Deep Is Your Donor Love?

Written by on November 12, 2012 in Nonprofit - No comments

The Bee Gees (left) and Gotye (right) provided musical inspiration for this post.

How deep is your love?  It’s a classic hit from the Bee Gees and a key question for your nonprofit, given the current state of charitable giving. How much do your donors care about you and your cause? How consistently have you engaged with your community of supporters? How deep is your (or their) love?

Here’s why that question is so important.

According to the latest data from The Blackbaud Index, overall charitable giving fell over the last three months, compared to the same period a year ago. The report cites an unsettled economy and election season as possibly dampening fundraising efforts.

The near future promises more uncertainty, as we are headed toward a potential fiscal cliff, just in time for the holidays. Consumers aren’t yet acting terribly concerned about it, but with every passing day, we’ll see greater consumer reaction.

With donations being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to have loyal donors. Unfortunately, recent studies show a tremendous amount of turnover for most charities. A report by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute showed that for every $100 charities raised in 2011, $100 was lost as donors stopped giving or donated less. Or maybe donated elsewhere?

Does your nonprofit effectively build relationships with donors? If the answer is no, you’re likely weathering a difficult storm at the moment. Although there’s no magical remedy to help out today, there are steps you can take to ensure stronger relationships with your donors moving forward.

  • Relate to them. Make sure you thoroughly understand the demographics and psychographics of your supporters. How they like to communicate. What type of relationship they expect to have with your organization. These insights should influence your communication strategy, creating an opportunity for you to build closer connections.
  • Keep them aware of your impact. Regularly communicate with donors about key wins, individual success stories, positive results from funds you’ve raised and progress toward organizational goals. Make it personal, so it’s easy to see how they made a difference. They should always have a reason to feel good.
  • Put them to work. Create ongoing opportunities for donors to contribute in ways above and beyond financial support. Ask for their input on issues or decisions (where appropriate). Provide them with easy ways to share your organization’s story and news (like a badge they can use in social media, or a video they can pass along to friends). However simple the activities, make sure you keep them feeling involved, inspired and important.
  • Know where you stand. Do you have an efficient and effective way to measure how engaged your donors are? Do you know whether you have a happy community of supporters or not? Do you know why your donors give? And if they plan to do so again? To strengthen any relationship, you must first have a clear view of where you stand with the other party.

Creating loyal donors requires extra effort on your part. You must build deep connections with your supporters and consistently position your activities and impact. When done effectively, you can slow the revolving door and retain more gifts year over year. You can also be better prepared when environmental forces turn against you (such as a faltering economy, a natural disaster, a fiscal cliff or how about all three at once?).

In the end, people typically donate because they are passionate about a specific cause. What you need is for them to be equally passionate about your organization. A donor who is less emotionally engaged with your organization is more likely to reduce donations over time or stop giving altogether.

So your choices are to invest in a specific strategy to deepen the love your donors have for you. Or, to quote a more contemporary hit song by Gotye, risk having them be “somebody you used to know.”


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