Delighting Your Donors – Strategies for Adopting a Donor-Centric Approach

When I think about the impact donors have on our mission, one of my favorite quotes comes to mind:

Dan Zadra once said, ”Let no one tell you that a problem is too big, or that you can’t make a difference.” And, he’s right — even the smallest effort can make a difference, and it’s a wonderful starting point from which to begin building a strong bond with your donors.

Donors are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization, so it’s important to think about what you can do to keep your focus on them. I believe that “delighting the donor” is the path to improved retention. It’s really a two-way street — establishing a bond with donors and keeping your focus on them is the best way to foster loyalty and maximize lifetime retention.

Over the years, I’ve learned what strategies really work. Here are three tips I stand by and put into practice every day at Project HOPE:

1. Send a Prompt acknowledgment

One of the most important strategies is to acknowledge donations in a timely manner. You must send an acknowledgement within 72 hours of receiving a donation. And, it’s most effective if you connect your donors’ gifts back to their original motivation for giving. Let them know that their donation ties right back to the issue or action they were asked to support, and how it will make an impact.

Don’t just send a generic thank you letter that has no personal meaning. Sending a personalized note gives you a unique opportunity to close the feedback loop and connect the acknowledgement back to what resonated with the donor and motivated them to give. This approach will make your donor think, “They listened to me, I’m validated.” Make your donor feel important.

2. Resolve Inquiries Quickly

When a donor calls your organization with a question, concern or issue, make sure that whomever they encounter promptly resolves the issue. Don’t transfer them numerous times. Don’t make them explain the issue more than once. Don’t take a message, and then be unclear about the problem when a call back is made. It’s important to establish a plan so personnel can give prompt and correct information with the very first contact by phone or e-mail.

When your donors feel that their concerns aren’t valid or aren’t treated seriously, it weakens the emotional link between them and your organization. The donor has to have confidence that they are giving their support to a well-run, credible organization that has their concerns in mind. This is just good customer service, and it’s just as important for nonprofits as it is in the for-profit world.

3. Thank Your Donors Personally Without Asking for More

It’s also a really good idea to show additional gratitude for gifts without an ask. If you call to thank your donors, or hand-write a brief note, step away from the solicitation framework. The gratitude touch is most important for a true donor-centric approach.

By making a short, live phone call, leaving a voice mail, or sending a quick handwritten letter, you can let your donors know that your organization cares about them and is thinking about them. Make sure you let them know that any gift, no matter how small, is important. Foster a sense of belonging, mutual interest and respect.

Remember to track these communications, as they can yield valuable metrics on retention, lifetime value and progress. To do this, consider gathering information on your donors by undertaking a survey to study commitment levels and attitudinal data. Besides yielding useful data, surveys are yet another way to connect with your donors and check your progress.

While the problems we face may seem insurmountable at times, and solving them is neither easy nor fast, it really is true that every bit of effort helps. By delighting your donors and working to show them your appreciation, you can motivate them to continue supporting the important work you do.

What are some strategies you use to delight your donors?  Share your comments  with us below.