Posted by Lisa Thompson


Try as you might, you’ll never be able to please everyone all the time. But there are some things you may be doing that aren’t pleasing anyone—any of the time. With donor attrition rates the way they are, it’s good to take a moment once in a while and assess your situation: Is there anything that your organization is doing to unknowingly hurt your cause?

Even if your intentions are pure, here are seven ways you might be driving your donors away and into the arms of another nonprofit who will happily welcome their support.

  1. Sending vague or unclear communication.

    Some nonprofit organizations try to accomplish too many things with just one email or direct mail piece, and they leave the reader asking, “Wait—what is this about? Are you thanking me, giving me an update, asking me to volunteer or soliciting money?” If you’re trying to do all four with just one piece of communication, you may not not succeed at any. Your best bet: Have one goal for each message you send, and make it clear. That way your donors will understand exactly what you’re communicating and everyone will be on the same page.

  2. Asking for money without a good reason.

    Of course, you may know where your donors’ money is going, but they don’t—not unless you tell them. When you send any type of appeal, be clear about why you’re asking for money. Most donors want insight into how their donation is being used and what it’s accomplishing—plus keeping them in the loop will bode well for future gifts. The quickest way to lose a donor is to keep him in the dark.

  3. Making online donations difficult.

    Is your Donate Now button on your website clear and easy to find? Do you feature it prominently? Do you send visitors to a third party site in order to make a donation, or do you keep them on your site, ensuring a seamless donation process? These days, people expect a clear and easy pathway to making an online donation. If your pathway meanders aimlessly, sends people to a different location, has obstacles to overcome or is simply difficult to find, you’re losing dollars.

  4. Making it hard to register.

    If you’re still asking people to mail you a form and a check in order to buy a ticket or register for an event, your registration process could use a little updating—pronto. Just as with online donations, people now expect a quick and seamless online registration process. You’ll increase attendance and get more people excited about your events if you allow them to register easily on your website without any hassle. The technology for online registration is readily available and affordable—in fact, you really can’t afford not to have it if you want to host successful events.

  5. Not saying thank you.

    This should go without saying, but thanking your donors in a timely manner is simply common courtesy. However, many nonprofits fail in this area, or they say thank you weeks after the donation, by which time the donor has decided to move on and support a different organization. If your thank-you message is not immediate and sincere, this is something you might want to evaluate and improve. A heartfelt thank-you after each donation will go a long way in decreasing donor attrition.

  6. Asking for money each time you say thank you.

    Make a thank-you just that: a thank-you. It doesn’t have to turn into an appeal or a request of any kind in order to accomplish something important for your organization. You may not see the value in a simple thank-you, but your donors will. Appreciating their sacrifice is an important investment in both your donor relationships and the future of your organization. The bottom line is you won’t keep donors around who don't feel valued.

  7. Not following up about how their donation is making a difference.

    Most of your donors are not giving to you just because they need a tax deduction; they’re supporting your organization because they believe in your cause. They actually care. So it makes sense, then, that they will be curious as to what their dollars are being used for. Are you following up with them after their donations? If not, you may lose them to organizations who will. You can send a letter, a newsletter, an email, even an invitation for an in-person visit to your organization—whatever you choose, follow up with success stories and details about how their donation made a positive impact. This is an important way to foster better donor relationships.

At Firespring, we have essential tools and technology that will make it easier for you to engage with your constituents and build those all-important relationships. From donation processing to email marketing, we can help you create a more seamless online experience for your donors and keep fewer of them from walking away.


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