Have you ever played solitaire? It’s a great way to procrastinate. Sometimes, when there is something I know I need to do, like clean my house, do my dishes, or even write my blog, I will pull the game up on my computer and play a few games.
Something I have noticed when I play is how easy it is to lose because I am not paying attention to the game. I will miss an opportunity that is right in front of me. I might not notice that I can move a card to the proper sequence and will play a card from the draw pile, or I will notice an opportunity after I draw that had I played a card before, I would have been able to play another card I passed up. If you keep score of the game like I do, the losses are much higher than they should be.
A lot of development programs are like that. Instead of paying proper attention to the donors that already support their organization; they spend a lot of time looking for new ways to generate income. They don’t engage their supporters enough with stories about their successes and their needs. They don’t thank their donors in a timely manner, if they remember to thank them at all. They don’t ask their followers for advice, like how often they would like to be contacted, or how they would like to receive their communications.
A recent study illustrates this problem. The report released by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute last fall showed that smaller organizations lost about $110 in donations from existing supporters for every $100 they received from new sources. That indicates to me that the organizations are neglecting their supporters with poor stewardship practices in their search for greener pastures.
A recent guest post by Jay Love on Katya Andresen’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog listed eight reasons why donors stop giving to charitable organizations. Of those eight, three are keys in my opinion; donors were not informed how their gifts were used, they were never properly thanked for their gifts, or they received poor communication or service from the organization. Those failures of basic customer service can be very costly to your budget.
Proper stewardship of donors depends on clear and timely communication and thanking for support each time there is contact with the supporter. Take the time to find out what your donors want and need to continue their support for your mission and its programs, and then follow up accordingly.
My advice is don’t overlook what is right in front of you. Pay attention to the details. You will have greater success holding on to the relationships of your supporters if you do, and your organization will be more successful retaining their donor support.