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Bloodcurdling Donor Relations

By Sarah Sims

In the spirit of Halloween and all things spooky and ghoulish, let’s take a moment to consider the very worst, blood-curdling things we do to our donors…and not just on Halloween, but all year round! Here’s our top ten list of the worst fundraising tricks we play on our donors:

1. Thanking them for their transaction. Don’t send a gift receipt with words such as cart, invoice number, item, quantity, etc. These people are not customers buying shoes, they are donors supporting your organization with a personal gift.

2. Failing to recognize the correct donor in a household. If Mrs. Smith makes the gifts and Mr. Smith gets all the recognition, we are inadvertently unnerving our donors. Fix the data to be inclusive, comprehensive, and dead-on accurate.

3. Thasking. Don’t be a donor vampire – don’t thank and ask in the same communication. Ever.

4. Taking too much time to acknowledge a gift. A tax receipt should be generated within 1-3 business days (instantly for online gifts) and thank you letters should be mailed within 2 weeks of the date of the gift. Don’t let your acknowledgements sit and rot like an old pumpkin. Get them out.

5. Cackling incessantly about ourselves and our organization instead of the donor and their impact. No need to rehash your mission, vision and purpose – your donors know this! Tell them instead what you have done with their dollars and why their investment was important.

6. Sending them a bill. No further explanation needed.

7. Ignoring the way in which your donors have told you they want to communicate. Do they give online? Email or text them. Mail in gift? Mail a thank you letter. Don’t dump your donors into a communications coffin with no options of determining frequency or delivery method. Pay attention to how they engage with you and then emulate.

8. Treating donors with inconsistency. Your supporters should know the right bone is talking to the left bone and that they are supporting one organization. Keep your communications, events, and gratitude initiatives centered around consistent messages, purposes, and audiences.

9. Using events as your primary form of engagement. By relying solely on events to engage and recognize your donors, you are missing everyone who can’t fly in on their broomstick to physically join you. Make sure and balance this with appropriate impact communications, touches from leadership, and digital relationship building.

10. Failing to thank - in good times and in bad and no matter the size of gift. Being remiss in gratitude, impact, and engagement is the single largest factor of donor attrition. They disappear as an apparition when we fail to value and thank them for their contributions and loyalty.

Don’t let these horrifying things scare away your donors! Need to address a few of these? Check out the 2020 DRG webinar series for more “treats and tricks” on how to avoid (and fix) these common donor nightmares.

This post was written by Sarah Sims. Sarah is a consultant and educator with the DRG Group and serves as the Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida. Sarah is a leader in the donor relations field with more than 15 years’ experience. Drawing from her strengths in strategy and execution, Sarah is always looking for ways to turn challenges into opportunities.


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