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5 Times It Really Pays to Know Your Donors

Are you raising funds for a nonprofit organization? You’re in a noble line of work. Nonprofit fundraising is a people-oriented field. When you raise funds, you are helping donors realize their dream of making a difference in the lives of other people. Then why, as you get more successful, does it feel harder and harder to know your donors? It’s a paradox. At the start, you knew everybody who gave, some of them personally. Now, your organization may have hundreds or thousands of loyal supporters. They can’t all be your friends…but you still have to know them. Your fundraising depends on it! Here are five instances when knowing your donors is vital: 1. When You’re Asking for Money 2. When You’re Staying in Touch 3. When You’re Writing a Newsletter 4. When You’re Collecting Stories to Share 5. When the Donor Calls Let’s start with the most important tip…

1. When You’re Asking for Money

As I write this, we are approaching the end of the calendar year, when many nonprofit organizations receive most of their support from donors. It’s crucial to get your appeal letter right. But one size does not fit all. If you are sending the same letter to all your donors, you’re leaving money on the table. Think about it. If you give money to an organization and they don’t even know who you are, how likely are you to give again? So, your nonprofit needs to know at least:
  • Whether you’re asking a donor to renew their gift or a prospect to give for the first time
  • If they’re a donor, when and how much they gave before
  • What interests them about your organization’s work (because if they care about the housing you build, and you ask them to support the childcare you offer, they may wonder who you think you’re talking to!)
Ideally, you would also have some sense of the donor’s capacity to give. If you know all these things, you can segment your list and send different letters to donors than to prospects, tell stories about the work the donor cares about the most, thank them for their previous gift, and ask them for an amount they can afford to give if they care enough to do so. And you will make more money for your good cause!

2. When You’re Staying in Touch

Why do two out of three first-time donors to your organization never make a second gift? Jay Love of Bloomerang lists five reasons:
  1. Thought the charity did not need them: 5%
  2. No information on how monies were used: 8%
  3. No memory of supporting: 9%
  4. Never thanked for donating: 13%
  5. Poor service or communication: 18%
Knowing your donors helps you know what to say in the thank-you letter you send within 48 hours of receiving the initial gift. It helps your board members know what to say when they call donors to thank them. And it will help you every time you “touch” them in any way throughout the year.

3. When You’re Writing a Newsletter

Beyond being thanked, donors want to hear how their donations made a difference. That’s the reason for publishing a nonprofit newsletter: to tell them. If you know your donors well, you can decide whether it makes sense to send a print newsletter, an e-newsletter, or both, or send print to some people and email to others. If you know what they care about, you can send newsletters on particular topics to the people who want to read them. Or, at the least, you can make sure your newsletters include items that will appeal to the various audiences you’ll find among your donors. Don’t make anyone feel left out!

4. When You’re Collecting Stories to Share

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