Friday, August 26, 2016

Respecting Donor Preferences

Often times, it feels like nonprofit organizations aren't listening to their donors. Fundraising is both an art and a science, a profession rife with complexities and data, but what about what the donor wants? Simply asking a donor their preferences and then respecting them seems to be a lost art. Or noticing donor behavior and basing future behavior with that donor on past donor behavior can often be overlooked at an organization or ignored altogether. We're making progress, but we have a long way to go. The companies in our atmosphere that do this well have higher revenue and greater customer loyalty, with falling donor retention rates, why is this not our approach? 

A few examples of the good and the bad if you will. I give, and I give online. I don't write checks to nonprofits and I never have. Yet constantly nonprofits misunderstand my donations not only as a gateway to deluge me with solicitations, but a chance to deluge me with the WRONG kind of solicitations. Here is a photo of the direct mail I received in June and July from nonprofits asking for money:

My poor mail delivery person's back!! And do you see all the #10 envelopes in there? Yup, each and every one has a long letter asking me for a gift and an envelope hoping for a check I'll never send. They completely ignore my preference for digital communication based on my giving history. Such a shame.
But not all organizations are ignoring their donors. Check out these great examples of us listening to our supporters:
Wake Forest University wants to understand me better- What an enlightened approach! 
And of course as usual, Charity Water stands above the rest. As a monthly donor to them for three years they are now changing their monthly giving program and are going to reach out to me personally to see how I want my donation to proceed. This is great and so donor focused.

I'll tell you that the University of Dayton takes the cake here people- this is something to aspire to! Within days of making an online gift I received a surprising email from them. They wanted to get to know me and my communication preferences and were going to record that and respect it- WHAAAAAT? OMG- Call me surprised and delighted! They also put me in the drivers seat. Gave me control of my experience with them- KUDOS!!

 What are you doing to get to know your donors better and then record and respect their preferences? How are you using that data to drive your activity with donors? We all want to be better fundraisers, but we can't ignore their preferences and desires for our own plans and calendars. Put the donors at the center of your plans and allow them choice. Your work will flourish!

I would love to hear your thoughts.



  1. Once again Lynne, you have your finger on the pulse. As technology becomes more sophisticated, our donors expect and are beginning to demand higher levels of personalization. I say good for them! They deserve it. We better hurry and get our acts together!

  2. Do you know what email platform and database system Dayton is using? Asking for this info is great -- maintaining it and honoring it is way more difficult.