“Was it something we did?”
It’s a question many fundraisers ask themselves when they see donors silently drop off their radar. Of course, there will always be supporters who choose to end the relationship for personal reasons but, if a trend develops it could mean their perception about your organization has changed and it’s a good idea to find out why.
To find out why try researching the dates when those past donors last contributed to your nonprofit and look for changes that occurred within that time span. Next look at their history of giving prior to that point and then ask what events connect those dates. Was there an economic downturn that may have changed their financial situation? Was there a change in leadership at your nonprofit? The answers to these questions is your starting point to find out why you are losing donors, and how to stop them from leaving.
Why donors leave?
The top ten reasons donors stop giving to nonprofits really fall into just two categories. It could be for reasons that are entirely personal, or it may be something that has happened within their relationship with the nonprofit. We’ve gathered the top ten reasons and divided them up into the three areas you cannot control, and seven that have the potential to be remedied. Let’s break them down.
Issues That Can Be Addressed
Most of the reasons given for choosing to end a relationship with a donor stem from a lack of communication on the side of the nonprofit. That’s great news! Now that you know there is an issue, it’s probably an easy fix.
The charity no longer needs my support
Misconceptions can happen at any moment. If you witness several donors exiting your community around the same time it may be they feel you no longer have a need for their contribution. This is an indication that you need to re-evaluate your marketing strategies.
Communicating the success of a project should not be the death knell for future funding. When sending out an update on a completed initiative, it’s a good idea to include a statement on future needs to keep your donors excited and involved.
They have found another mission to support
There are occasions when a donor’s focus shifts to another cause and they choose to send their funding elsewhere. Finding out why can be an impossible task, as donors typically don’t share those details, but it’s worth asking.
Sending out a note to reconnect with past donors or making a quick call to check in can illuminate the reason for their change of heart. Once you have an understanding of their fundamental interest in donating to another nonprofit, you can connect their interest in their mission with your own goals.
Too many funding requests
The timing, delivery, and presentation of each “ask” takes a lot of thoughtful consideration in order to nail it effectively. If donors don’t hear from your nonprofit for an extended period of time, you may slip off their radar. If they receive too many solicitations it could turn them off and end the relationship.
Figure out a perfect balance to ensure that your organization has a place in their thoughts, but donors don’t get overloaded with more funding requests. If you have created contribution levels, you may want to take a look at those amounts to find out if they are varied enough that all donors will have the opportunity to contribute.
Dissatisfied with the organization
Regardless of how conscientious you are, there are always situations that can cause bad feelings in the relationship with donors. In those cases, it’s vitally important to find out what has occurred and who was affected. Take action immediately to rectify the situation in order to mitigate the aftereffects before they become permanent.
Sometimes a public apology is called for and can be handled either through your website or on social media networks. When a more personal touch is appropriate, break out the pen and paper for a heartfelt message, or record a video to extend your message of reconciliation.
The charity did not inform me how my money had been used
Donors need to know where their money is going, otherwise they may feel they are chucking their hard-earned money into a bottomless pit.
Once a contributor has been added to your donor list, send out a thank you and information on past, current, and future projects. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does have to be relevant and the goals need to be achievable so your donors can understand the value of your mission.
The charity did not acknowledge my support
This is the saddest reason donors choose to end their relationship with a nonprofit. Sending out a thank you card should be a big priority every time a donation comes in from your community.
Let the donor know how grateful you are to have them be a part of your nonprofit’s community and how important their gift is to your work. Provide them with some concrete information, like statistics, images, and testimonials that will tell the story of your organization and prove that you will use their contribution wisely.
Not asked to donate again
Follow-up means a lot in the nonprofit world. Make sure you are setting the stage for a future ask by staying in touch on a regular basis with the donor.
Donors expect to be asked to contribute again to a nonprofit they’ve already donated to in the past, so don’t be afraid to make that request again. Your donors will be reminded of their importance to your mission and see that their continued support is necessary to complete the projects their previous donations helped to start. Whenever a donation is made, send out a thank you card.
A Donor’s Personal Issue
Sometimes the reason a donor leaves your community is beyond your control, but there are ways to transform the relationship to accommodate their new situation.
A change in their financial situation
Most people have gone through times when they needed to re-evaluate their budget and cut costs. Even if they see it as temporary, it could affect your current and future projects. If there is a wide-spread, obvious reason, such as the economic downturn we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have an opening to keep the relationship going.
If a large, public event has affected your donor community, consider communicating a lesser need, such as the need to reach a smaller funding goal targeted at one project. This provides them with an avenue to continue the relationship with your organization while staying within their new budget.
No memory of prior donations
Generosity runs deep in the bones of the nonprofit donor community, which means many contributors support several organizations at the same time. Even if they aren’t a prolific donor to your organization, there is always the chance that their involvement with your organization has been forgotten.
However, if they have donated once, there is always the chance they’ll do it again. This is the perfect time to send out a marketing campaign or make a personal call to reconnect with the donor and tell them about the great projects you’ve got in the works.
The donor has passed away
Nonprofits and their donors make up tight-knit communities and when someone passes away, it is not only felt in the funding that has been lost, it’s also felt in our hearts. There isn’t anything you can do about the loss of a dedicated supporter, but there is an opening to work with the estate to set up a legacy gift in their name.
Families often want to memorialize their loved one’s name, but you don’t want to dismiss the sensitive moment when going in with “the ask.” Communicate your sympathy to the family and let them know how much their loved one’s support has meant to the organization. Offer to send information about ways you’d like to memorialize their contribution with a legacy program that will put their name front and center in your donor list.
Holding onto donors really boils down to addressing two different issues: A lack of communication that you can quickly turn around, and one that is out of your control but carries with it the potential to transform into a new and improved relationship. Look at the research you’ve compiled and give your donors a second chance to support a mission they value.