Tag Archives: donor relations

Look up now: Your donor is leaving!

20 Jan

161142__icebop_lYour donor is walking out of the door. And you’re so busy turning cartwheels for a potential donor that you don’t even notice.

In the absence of donor attrition studies in India (if anyone is doing them, I’d love to hear all about it), here are some findings from the 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Urban Institute in the US:

  1. Every $100 gained in 2012 was offset by $96 in losses due to donation attrition.
    This means that for every Rs 100 raised, not-for-profits lost Rs 96 because of a drop in other donations. In other words, you think you have Rs 196 in the pot, but you have only Rs 4!
  2. Every 100 donors gained in 2012 was offset by 105 in lost donors through attrition.
    This is even more shocking. For every 100 new donors recruited, 105 donors were lost because they just stopped giving.

Last week we talked about how donor retention had finally jumped ahead of acquisition as a priority for not-for-profits. This is in the US. At home, it’s business as usual.

While not-for-profits are willing to earmark budgets for donor acquisition, very few see donor retention as a priority. It’s time to wake up to the stampede of the departing donors’ feet.

Plan for donor retention, the very minute that you make plans to acquire the donor, and not long after the donor has been acquired.

Five ways to jumpstart your New Year’s Resolutions

23 Jan

It’s nearing the end of January and we now know where our NY resolutions are headed. The grim determined sort is jumping out of bed at 5 am and tripping over sneakers strategically placed at the bottom of the bed, as a note to self to run. The weak-willed have done what they suspected all along they might do, and are drowning their sorrows in drink or hot chocolate.

Fundraisers come in both these kinds. For those of you that have stuck to your resolutions of the 1st, good luck (and damn!) For the others, there’s hope yet. One of the reasons our NY resolutions go nowhere is that they are vague. You’ve heard weight loss motivational coaches say this all the time: instead of saying you want to lose weight this year, say you’ll lose 2 kg every month for six months.

So here’s an example of the top five resolutions that a fundraiser might make. In each case, we’ve rewritten it so that they are more realistic, bite-sized and have a chance of actually getting done. 





Be better at donor relations.

Make real contact (meeting, phone, handwritten note) with one donor every day. No email.


Write better appeals, newsletters and mailers.

Read what I write out loud and ask myself, “Do I sound like a real person talking – in modern times?” 


Explore corporate fundraising.

Read the pink papers three times a week to keep tabs on what companies are doing.


Make a start with social media.

Take 15 mins out every day for a week to study what a great not-for-profit brand is doing on Facebook. After a week, do the same for Twitter. And so on. (Note: Opening a FB page doesn’t qualify as making a start.)


Create kickass communication materials.

Budget for it. (Couldn’t resist that one!)

So, go on. Rewrite those NY goals and get them done.

I’m leaving this with a Nick Hornby quote (the inspiration behind the top five lists): “You have to work at relationships. You can’t just walk out on them every time something goes wrong.” The same could be said of resolutions.

How to annoy donors and drive away friends with a thank you letter

16 Jan

This festive season we saw more than our usual share of thank you letters. Apart from the number, though, little had changed with thank you letters since 2001, when I started working with non-profits.

So we tried to get into the heads of people whose job it is to write thank you letters and understand why they write what they write. Here’s what we found:

1. “Dear friend/ Dear donor,”

Inside the letter-writer’s head (LWH): There’s your first clue to how much we care about you. We haven’t bothered to find out your first name. Even if we do know, we don’t care enough to do a mail-merge or even scribble your name in.

2. “Thank you for your donation.”

LWH: It’s Monday morning and I don’t have the time to get creative. Never mind that you’ve got 27 other thank you letters that all started the same way. And ended up in your dustbin.

3. “Thank you for your generous donation.”

LWH: Erm.. The database manager is not yet at work. After all, you know how much you gave to us, right?

4. “Your contribution will go towards helping people help themselves.”

LWH: I don’t yet know exactly how your donation will be used. No, we can’t give two or three specific examples of what your donation could fund. So I will stick to some nice sounding broad statement that covers it all.

5. “AllAboutUs Foundation is a people-centric organisation that builds the capacities of individuals and communities for self-reliance, sustainability and success. We were founded in 1947 by our illustrious founder, xxxxx…” (Three more paragraphs follow)

LWH: There are good reasons why we write like this.

  • This is how we have described our organisation since 1947, and any change has to be endorsed by our board members.
  • It expresses the totality of our work and covers all perspectives.
  • Everyone knows what capacity building means.
  • The donor wants to know more about ‘us’, right? The thank you letter is about us, not them!

6. “We hope that you will continue to donate to us in the future.”

LWH: I don’t know when I will write to you next, so why waste an opportunity to ask? I expect you to remember this ask until the next time you feel a generous moment coming on, and give to us again. PS Why do you feel unappreciated just because we asked you for more money? I said thank you at the start, didn’t I?

Here are the Top Five Things We Don’t Do, just to make sure the donor never finds us or gets back to us.

  1. No name on the letter. The donor will appreciate getting a letter from a faceless organisation, rather than from an individual.
  2. No phone number or email ID. They can always Google us, can’t they?
  3. I’ve said thank you once. I don’t need to say it again.
  4. Donors know about tax benefits. That’s why they give. Why waste space mentioning it?
  5. Actually sign the letter? That’s too much trouble. A printed name looks neater.

You might say the letter writer didn’t mean those things. Too bad. The donor thinks the letter writer meant them. And that’s what really counts.

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