Developing Donors

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

A while ago, the Daily Pilot published an article about a nonprofit that really moved me. I went to the nonprofit’s website to learn more. They had a number of giving levels. I donated at the highest sponsorship level and was prepared to invest ten times that amount if the nonprofit wanted me to do more. The nonprofit’s only response was to send me a letter that was a combo IRS receipt and thank you. Very efficient, but pretty stupid because I concluded that giving more to this nonprofit would probably not be very satisfying.

In business, if a sales person got a significant, unsolicited order from a new customer, they would immediately call the customer to thank them, to learn more about who they were, and to find out what else they might do to be of more service to that client. If they did not at least do that, most employers would fire that sales person for incompetence or indolence.

Most nonprofits talk like they really need new donations, but most don’t seem “walk-the-talk” nearly as well as a for-profit sales person. Many nonprofits just send new donors their thank you + IRS receipt form letter.

Here is what you should do. First, decide what a “significant new donation” is for your nonprofit. It might be any new donation that is twice as large as the average new donation (or 3x or 4x). Every time you receive a “significant new donation”, promptly call to thank them, to find out what attracted them to your nonprofit, to assess whether they have any interest in learning more about any aspect of your nonprofit, and if so, how they would like you to follow up on their interest.

Why do that? Most new donors became aware of something that all of a sudden made them favorably disposed towards your nonprofit. Initial donations are frequently a trial, similarly to the way people make a trail visit to a restaurant, store or service provider that they heard was good. If they have a satisfying initial experience, they are more likely to become a highly valued regular customer. Similarly, it is not uncommon for a new nonprofit donor to annually contribute ten times as much when they have a satisfying relationship with your nonprofit, compared to what they will give in response to your mail, E-mail or website appeals.

Bottom Line: New donors are one of the most productive places to look for more donations. But you have to reach out to develop a relationship with them in order to realize that potential.

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