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Fix the Leak First!

To be clear, I’m not what you might call a “car guy.” But for unfortunate reasons, I had to be one this week. When I took my car to be serviced, there were several issues which required the technicians’ expertise to diagnose.

The one issue I was able to diagnose myself? A coolant leak. Every time I’d fill the car with coolant, I’d just have to refill it a few weeks later. And the number of times I had to dedicate my time, money, and frustration to refilling my coolant reservoir was getting to be rather aggravating. Not to mention cold!

So why would I continue to pour coolant in the reservoir rather than fixing the leak? And if I couldn’t fix the leak myself, why wouldn’t I seek the guidance of someone who could help me fix the leak?

Those questions seem obvious, right? Well, now think of your organization as the reservoir and your donors as the coolant.

Growing your donor base is very important. There’s no doubt about that. But we know it costs significantly more money to acquire a new donor than it does to retain an existing one.

So why would you continue to spend money on adding new donors if you’re really struggling to retain the ones you already have?

If you’re “leaking” donors, let’s brainstorm about ways you can fix that. Donors most often lapse because they weren’t properly thanked for a previous gift or because of a lack of communication for how their gift was used — or simply because they weren’t asked again.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your acknowledgment letters going out on time? Are they grateful enough and personal enough?

  • How are your first-time donors given a welcome to your organization? Is it just the acknowledgment letter, or do you go the extra mile and call them or send them a Welcome Kit?

  • Are you explicitly communicating with donors, by means of an Impact Report or other stewardship materials, how their gift made an impact on those your organization seeks to help?

  • Do your donors receive regular communication and updates from your organization when you aren’t asking for funds?

  • Are your appeals compelling enough to convince donors to give a second or third time?

Before you add more “coolant” to your “reservoir,” take the time to figure out where your leak is. And if your issues require technicians’ expertise to diagnose, we can be your technicians! Contact us at (708) 974-2600, or e-mail

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