Are You Bothering Your Donors?

Why are we afraid we’re “bothering” donors?

We ask questions like “how soon is too soon to ask for a second gift?” or “best practices say I should wait nine months for a second gift, what should I communicate before then?”

Can you imagine a meeting at Amazon where executives debate like this, “We should send an email to someone featuring complementary products for something they just bought,” executive #1 says.

Executive #2 replies, “I don’t know, our surveys show that if someone makes a large purchase, they don’t have the money available to purchase accessories right away. Maybe we should wait. This survey says we should wait nine months before we send them that email.”

Or consider this, would you last long at Apple if you suggested that someone who drops $2,500 on a laptop isn’t ready for accessories and perhaps we should wait a couple months before asking them to spend more money?

Assuming that your nonprofit is “bothering” donors is one of the biggest fundraising fallacies we make as nonprofit development professionals.

Go look at your donor surveys. Why do people say they support your organization?

  • “Because I care about the cause.”
  • “The organization is making a difference.”
  • “I have a personal connection to the cause.”

What you’re not going to see is “because they nagged me into giving.”

(Incidentally, if you do, reconsider your entire fundraising strategy. 😉

I recently read a survey from a well-known fundraising organization that stated you should save your second ask until nine months after the first gift because this is the amount of time donors said they want you to wait. Be careful of what donors say in surveys, pay more attention to how they behave.

Make a mental shift: you aren’t bothering your donors. You do need to be smart about how and what you’re communicating to donors, but you don’t need to be shy about asking for money.

1. Thank Your Donors

Show gratitude to your donors. Donors want a relationship and to understand the impact of their donation. Thank the donor and tell her what her donation is being used for.

Impact reporting is a crucial part of the communication process. You can’t be generic here — donors want to know how her donation is impacting real people.

2. Build a Relationship with the Donor

Donors are giving to your organization because they have a passion for your cause. Many donors crave to be a part of a community and if you’re able to build a relationship with the donor and introduce her to people who are like her, you’ll create a lifelong donor.

Your communications should engage donors with a congruent message to what she donated to. For example, if your donor gave to a local arts program, the communications she receives should have the local arts program as a theme throughout. By personalizing communications, you demonstrate the donor that you understand what she cares about.

3. Ask for a Second Donation

Once you’ve thanked your donor and begun the engagement process to nurture the donor, ask for the second gift. You don’t have to wait nine months, in fact, most studies of donor behavior show that if you wait beyond 90 days, your chance for the second gift diminishes greatly. As in all things, test it with your donors.

Don’t assume you’re “bothering” your donors. They want to hear from you. They will be more offended if you stop communicating with them than if you simply continued the relationship building process.

About the Author:

Jeremy Reis is the Senior Director of Marketing at Food for the Hungry, an international relief and development organization headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Jeremy serves on the Advisory Council for Christian Leadership Alliance, an alliance of more than 6,000 mission-focused Christians who lead in today’s high-impact Christian nonprofit ministries, churches, educational institutions, and businesses. His aim is to help all nonprofits take advantage of technology solutions to improve donor experience and fundraising.

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