5 Things That Drive Donors Away

One of the most tenuous moments in a nonprofit’s relationship with its supporter base is at the very beginning. When someone first makes a donation, signs up for your email list, or interacts with one of your social media posts, you have a unique opportunity. What you do next with that relationship could be the difference between a lifelong supporter… or someone who clicks “unsubscribe.”

This is a cheeky post to get you thinking about how you might be losing potential donors without even realizing it—and to provide some simple fixes.

5 Quick Ways to Make Sure Your Supporters Leave You

Have you ever wanted your email list to all unsubscribe at once? I mean, sheesh, keeping up with writing a newsletter is tough business!

Do you feel like you have too many people interested in what your organization is doing? Are you getting more donations than you know what to do with?

Here are some great ways to frustrate and annoy supporters who have opted to hear from you… and drive them away in droves!

1. Add your new email subscriber to three OTHER nonprofit email lists they didn’t sign up for!

Everyone loves when they sign up to hear from a single nonprofit that interests them—and then get immediately bombarded with email from a dozen other nonprofits. Especially ones with unrelated causes!

I know your email subscriber said they just wanted your updates. Maybe just about a specific fundraising project. But probably won’t notice a few more emails- right?

A great way to scare off all those potential new supporters? Bombard them with emails about all of these other causes that aren’t at all related to their interests.

2. Treat your supporters like piggy banks.

My very favorite thing that happens when I first donate a cause that means a lot to me? Immediately being asked to make another donation. If I had another donation to make, I would have included it with my recent donation.

Rattling the collections hat right after a big funding campaign has ended is the perfect way to drive away all of the new, interested people who just joined up.

3. Never thank anyone for anything, ever.

I mean, who donates to a nonprofit thinking they’ll be appreciated? No matter how much time, energy, or money someone gives your organization, don’t give a second thought to sending even a small, one-line thank-you note.

The best way to alienate those really loyal, repeat volunteers and life-long donors is to never thank them for their contributions. Certainly not an individualized letter acknowledging how they went above and beyond for you.

4. Bombard supporters with as many emails as possible. Four a day. No, five!

TIP: More emails doesn’t mean more engagement. You don’t even need to email every day—a quality email update with photos once a week goes much farther, and you run a lower risk of losing subscribers.

Everyone knows when you sign up for an email list, you expect to hear from it at least once at every meal. Every day I sit down to dinner, wondering what my favorite nonprofit organization is up to since I last heard from them earlier that morning!

In all seriousness, this is one of the greatest wrongs a nonprofit can commit: over-communicating. A supporter who wanted to be a part of your cause will get sick of you fast.

  • Avoid sending corrections if at all possible. Proof all your initial emails properly, so you don’t have to bombard people with follow-ups. Don’t send a correction unless your mistake was really egregious.
  • Don’t follow up emails asking for donations to a campaign with “updates” about that campaign. Wait at least a day or two if you’re offering matching gifts, or if you haven’t met your goal.

5. Never update them about the progress of your work, victories, or accomplishments. Focus on the money!

People don’t get involved with causes because they care about that cause, or want to see the mission achieved. Right? They just want to throw money at a charity and never hear from them again!

Especially after they’ve donated, people want to know where their money has gone. What are you using it for? What has your nonprofit accomplished with those funds?

At least half of your communications with supporters should be about something other than fundraising. For example: why not send an email about your latest work event? Include pictures of staff and volunteers getting the job done, of animals you’ve helped, or houses you’ve built. Whatever your nonprofit does… show it getting done.

And when your supporters know what you’re up to with their money, they’ll be more likely to donate again!

Thanks for playing along with our sarcasm. We know you probably don’t do any of the above practices, yet we wanted to get you thinking about keeping donors happy from a different perspective.

Download PDF


Share your thoughts