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Why Your Donors Don’t Stay... and What you Can Do About It

When do your donors come to the end of their journey with your organization?

Often, it ends as a result of poor communications. Yes, the manner in which you communicate with your donor is important. It matters—a lot.

To better understand the donor journey process, here are three phases of a donor relationship:

1. Awareness

Many people take it for granted that the journey begins when you acquire a new donor. But just like with a dating relationship, before your first date, you’re building an awareness of that person and learning about them. The same holds true with donor relationships. This is when telling you story in a clear, meaningful way is crucial. If your story if is confusing or lacks emotion, you’ll lose donors pretty quickly. Story telling is only a part of what it takes to keep donors however. Social media is a great tool for building awareness and creating connections. Get your audience engaged socially and then move them into deeper levels of engagement and communication. The question to ask yourself is When it comes to my organization, does the donor journey end before it even begins?


2. Conversion

This has to be done in the first twelve months after you’ve acquired a new donor. In fact, research shows that if you increase these donors to a second and third gift within twelve months, you will be greatly increasing the chances of a long-term donor relationship with lifetime value. Automated emails can be efficient but what else are you doing? You should be making calls, writing notes, and differentiating yourself from other nonprofits. And, by all means, be sure that when your donor wants to give, the process is straightforward and simple.


3. Retention

Even if (or when) donors lapse, don’t waver. Bring them back by continuing to reach out to them. Focus on strong communications that don’t refer to giving levels, but do refer to length of time the donor has been with you. If it makes sense to you that losing a donor after ten years of giving is more painful than losing a first-time donor, do all you can to keep your loyal donors giving. How? Cultivate them by having different levels of commitment. Ask yourself, How am I investing in my long-time donors; what more can/should I be doing for them?

Remember, your donors aren’t your donors because they want to help you. They want to see the results of their support. Always make the donor the hero in your communications and allow them to see how their gift is the difference maker in someone’s life.

If you’re thinking to yourself that you already are fearful that you’re communicating with your donors too much, that is very rarely the case, in spite of what some individual donors may say. People are looking for more, not less, communication from those they give their hard-earned money to.

Tell your story in a compelling way, communicate clearly and consistently, and make sure that you’re keeping the donor in the spotlight, not your organization.



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