How to Deal with Disgruntled Donors: Don’t Waste Valuable Complaints

Complaints button 300x249 How to Deal with Disgruntled Donors: Don’t Waste Valuable Complaints

Don’t waste valuable donor communications — whatever form they take!

I’m going to tell you to do exactly what I do.

Don’t ignore a single disgruntled supporter. Express compassion and contrition.

If someone takes the time to tell you they’re unhappy, that means they care. They’re connected to you. They want something from you, and you’re disappointing them.

This is your golden opportunity to get inside your donor’s head and find out what your supporter really cares about!

Don’t blow this person off. Instead, Continue Reading

Losing Too Many Donors? 5 No-Brainer Ways to Keep Them


Specific gifts 300x264 Losing Too Many Donors? 5 No Brainer Ways to Keep Them

Thoughtfully thank donors for their specific gifts if you want their continued, thoughtful giving

When it comes to improving donor retention, I often try to guide organizations through the process of shifting their thinking – and the culture of their organization – in the direction of gratitude rather than greediness toward their donors.

What’s important about making this philosophical shift is that it forces you to think very specifically about what you’re grateful for.

You aren’t simply asking your donors for money. Similarly, you aren’t thanking your donors for money.Continue Reading

What My Mother Taught Me and How it Informs My Fundraising Practice


Manners Polite and Rude 300x300 What My Mother Taught Me and How it Informs My Fundraising Practice

Do you toss good manners, along with common sense, out the window when you cross the threshold of your nonprofit?

Why and How to Invoke the Power of Thank You

My mother was known for having impeccable manners. At her memorial service, it seemed as if every other person who shared a memory talked about her manners. They did so not in a nitpicking way, but in a loving way.  It seemed she always knew just the right thing to do to show her appreciation.

Maybe that’s why I love writing thank you notes.  Seriously, it’s my favorite thing to do in all of fundraising.  And it’s undoubtedly why, when I first heard Penelope Burk speak in 2001, it completely changed my approach to the practice of development.Continue Reading

3 Rules for Thanking Nonprofit Donors that Should Never Be Broken

Thank you balloons 300x300 3 Rules for Thanking Nonprofit Donors that Should Never Be Broken

Never underestimate the power of a thoughtful, personal thank you.

If you’re not retaining as many donors as you’d like, you’ve no one to blame but yourself. And I’m here to tell you why.

You’re Not Thanking Donors Properly.

I’m serious. How you handle donor acknowledgements is that important. Yet, sadly, most of you do an absolutely rotten job of showing your donors how much they mean to you.

Part of the problem is due to focusing on acquisition at the expense of retention. Most executive and development directors don’t even know their retention rates without looking them up.

DUDES! Your retention rates should be on the tips of your tongues! If you don’t know how you’re doing, how can you improve?Continue Reading

6 Traits of Relationship-Building Nonprofits + 4 Most Effective Ways to Retain Donors

Bad day 6 Traits of Relationship Building Nonprofits + 4 Most Effective Ways to Retain Donors

Your donors have bad days too. Learn to be a friend.

Donor retention has continued to plummet every year for the past seven years.  It’s really, truly an awful problem. For some unknown reason, all that hard work you put into acquiring new donors is, seemingly, being wasted. Why?

I recently asked folks what ONE word they would use to sum up what is needed to transform donor loyalty. I received some interesting answers and thought I’d share them with you, along with my comments, here. First, let me remind you of my own Big Secret — the one principle I’ve found that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success: Continue Reading

The Big Secret – One Word – to Transform Donor Loyalty

SECRET 300x300 The Big Secret – One Word – to Transform Donor Loyalty

What ONE principle can change your donor relationships from short- to long-term?

In a recent post about building donor loyalty I promised to reveal my personal #1 SECRET the one principle that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success.

I’m going to share that principle here; then I’m going to turn this principle into a word – actually three variations of the same word – that you can use to transform the way you’ve been doing business.

Are you ready?Continue Reading

Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

dinosaur 300x300 Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

When it’s our time to go, we all gotta go — dinosaurs and pyramids alike!

An Open Letter to Andrea Kihlstedt — Part 1

[I am responding to Andrea Kihlstedt’s Open Letter to me, Is The Donor Pyramid Really Dead, in the Guidestar blog. She was responding to my recent posts on the death of the Donor Pyramid in Fundraising Success Magazine: R.I.P. Donor Pyramid? and Maximize Social Business Blog How Social Media Toppled the Donor Pyramid – What that Means for Nonprofits.]

First, let me say this is a great dialogue to be having. The donor pyramid is a sacred dinosaur, and it’s good to challenge old assumptions from time to time. After all, the dinosaurs had a very good run, but even they became extinct.

Andrea says “no, the pyramid is alive and well,” making the case that (especially in capital campaigns) not all donors are equal. She also finds use for the pyramid in other campaigns, noting a Kickstarter campaign she recently worked on in which the biggest gifts came from donors who were approached face-to-face rather than via online strategies.Continue Reading

Just Puppy Love? 4 Ways Nothing Beats It When it Comes to Donors

puppy love 300x300 Just Puppy Love?  4 Ways Nothing Beats It When it Comes to Donors

How to build donor loyalty and take puppy love to forever love.

Do you know why your dog is not only your best friend, but your exuberantly best friend – a Best Friend Forever on steroids?

Can anything be as joyous and lovingly loyal as a dog? Picture Snoopy doing the ‘Ode to Joy’ dance. Unbridled ecstasy. Happy, happy, happy. What makes Snoopy Charlie Brown’s BFF? My guess is that it’s the same thing that makes your pooch pop with pleasure as you poke yourself across the threshold at the end of the day.

Chances are 9 out of 10 that your doggie is your BFF because you are hers. You treat your pet like royalty. How are you treating your donors?Continue Reading

If it’s Broke, Better Fix it: Two Disarming Truths

broken arm xray 247x300 If its Broke, Better Fix it: Two Disarming Truths

What’s wrong with this picture?

Truths: Today, there are two things broken from my perspective: (1) my arm, and (2) the donor pyramid.

Yup! I’m really not much of a camper, but had a momentary lapse in judgement over the week-end. Kaboom!

Luckily, I managed to type up an article about the sad state of the donor pyramid prior to being reduced to a one-handed hunter/pecker (because this method is SLOW, baby)! That article, “R.I.P.Donor Pyramid,  is gracing the cover of the May/June Fundraising Success Magazine, so I hope you’ll check it out over there and let me know what you think. Here’s my bottom line: Continue Reading

8 Secrets to Building Online Relationships with People Who Matter – Part 2

Pizza delivery 199x300 8 Secrets to Building Online Relationships with People Who Matter – Part 2

Here’s your pizza! I sensed you wanted it, even though you didn’t order it.

In Part 1 I covered how quality trumps quantity when it comes to networking with your supporter base. It’s not so much about counting fans as it is about developing fans you can count on. In this two-parter I’m offering 8 ways to reframe your nonprofit marketing and fundraising stewardship objectives so you actually get something out of them — beyond counting. Click here for the first 4 ways, with accompanying ACTION TIPS.

4 More Relationship Building Secrets + ACTION TIPS

5. Be intriguing.

Don’t just do what people expect. If you want to make a connection with a new contact, especially a very busy one, the quickest way to arouse that person’s curiosity is with something unexpected. You can borrow a page from Disneyland when it comes to thinking about ways to “wow” your supporters.

ACTION TIP: Brainstorm 10 things you might do to delight your supporters in the weeks ahead. They do say ‘it’s the thought that counts’ – so think about what you might do. Another way to frame this is by taking a page from customer experience guru John Goodman, author of Strategic Customer Service, who talks about delivering “Psychic Pizza.” What if someone showed up right now with an unexpected gift of pizza? Or what if you did something really unexpected, like sending out a non-appeal headlined “Don’t send us money!” Then you could simply enclose a brief survey asking for feedback/advice on your programs. What a nice way to simultaneously demonstrate you care about folks for more than their wallets and also get them directly engaged.

6. Think people, not positions.

“Everyone reading this knows people who are smart, ambitious, motivated, and interesting,” Sobel says. “Some of those people, in eight or 10 years, are going to be influencers. They may even be CEOs.” Don’t just think about the obvious, established philanthropists and influencers in your community. Those folks are harder to reach and connect with than would have been the case 20 years earlier.

ACTION TIP: Make a list of folks you know who seem to be up-and-comers. Make connections with them now, early in their careers, before others catch on to them. If you do, this will pay dividends down the road.

7. Give before you ask.

Sobel tells the story of a business school classmate he hadn’t heard from in 30 years – until he received a long email asking him to invest in a new venture. He hadn’t invested first in building a relationship. Sobel ignored him.

ACTION TIP: If you don’t want your donors and/or influencers to ignore your requests, develop and implement a relationship-building plan first. Call them up on the phone. Get to know them as people. Don’t keep everything at arms length; then expect a hands-on response to your request.

8. Be generous.

This takes you back to the “attitude of gratitude” I encouraged you to adopt in Part 1, #4. Another way to think about this is simply as instilling an organization-wide culture of customer service. “You can’t operate with the thought of reciprocity in mind,” Sobel cautions. “You have to have a generous spirit. The greatest networkers I know genuinely like to help others. They’re always doing it. And if they ever do need anything, people will fall over themselves to help them.

ACTION TIP: Make engaging with your ‘customers’ everyone’s job. Don’t silo relationship building to development or marketing staff. Never underestimate the power of your constituents to make or break you. If you’re generous with them, just as a matter of course, they’ll be generous with you.

Always keep in mind that no one has to help you.

You can’t make people do anything for you. The way to make your supporters count is to join them, not browbeat them. As John Haydon notes in 5 Mind Shifts That Boost Social Sharing: “Become one of them… find the people who are already talking about your cause, and join their conversations. Quite naturally, on their own terms, they’ll accept you as one of their own.”

Ready to build your army of influencers and donors and make them count?  What’s one thing you’ll do differently starting next week? Please share.

For More Online Relationship Building Tips…

Get my updated  ‘Hop on Board’ Nonprofit Social Media Guide. You’ll get 27  full pages with more than 100 tips, resources and tools to help you with your resolve to fully embrace social media for your nonprofit.  Get started today!

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