Don’t Let Them Lose That Loving Feeling Because of Poor Communication

I was married for seventeen years, but sadly, like half of marriages these days, mine ended in divorce. 

It was in the fifteenth and sixteenth years, things really fell apart.  That was when the frequent open and honest two way communication broke down.  Conversations became less frequent.  What had always been a strength in the relationship disappeared.  Secrets were kept, and lies were told to cover up the secrets.  When the lies unraveled and the secrets came out in the light of day, trust was lost.  It was an obstacle that I could not overcome, and the once loving relationship ended.  It broke my heart.

Open and honest communication is important for every relationship, whether they are personal relationships like marriage, or donor relationships with nonprofit organizations.  Your donors want to hear from you and they need to hear from you to keep that supportive relationship alive and well. 

Communication needs to be frequent and regular.  You need to share information about what the organization is doing with your supporters, so they know you are doing good things with their support.  You can be do this with monthly newsletters sent by mail or by email.  You can do this by updating your website and/or Facebook page with interesting and compelling content, like stories about the people you serve.  The more information you can provide for them, the more they feel involved in your organization.  Donors do not want to hear from you only when you want money from them.

Communication needs to be two way.  It cannot be successful if it is only you talking or writing.  You have to ask them for their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  You can ask for their feedback with every newsletter you send out and every post on social media. You have to reach out to them and invite them to meet with you to discuss what they feel is important  about your organization.  You need to listen to them and pay attention to what they have to say.  Your supporters want that respect.

Communication has to be honest and transparent with your supporters.  You must let your donors know how you spend their investments by sharing financial information and your overhead costs in your annual reports and on your website.  If you need to invest in better technology, like a better computer system or donor data base, tell them about it and why it will make you a better organization.  If your pipes freeze and burst because of the harsh weather, let your donors know how much it cost to repair the damage.  If you lose support from a foundation or state agency, be honest about why it happened, and what your organization is doing to correct the mistake.  Do not try to cover things up, make excuses, or place blame on others, but take responsibility and your supporters will most likely stick with you.  If they find out about something from an outside source like the local newspaper, they will lose their trust in your organization, and their support will disappear.

I am a big believer in open and honest communication, and I think most people are too.  I often told my wife and daughter that I would rather be embarrassed by the truth than tell a lie, and that I would rather be hurt by the truth than be placated with a lie.  Fortunately, my daughter listened to what I said, and sadly, my wife did not. 

Don’t let poor communication cost your organization your donors’ love.



About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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5 Responses to Don’t Let Them Lose That Loving Feeling Because of Poor Communication

  1. Richard, you’re quite correct. Honest communication is vital to any relationship including the donor/nonprofit relationship. Years ago, an international aid organization raised money to deliver bottled water to a drought-plagued village in Somalia. Unfortunately, along the delivery route, a troop of baboons destroyed the water shipment during an overnight stop. The organization was torn about whether or not to communicate this bad news to donors. Fortunately, the organization opted for honest communication. When the staff spoke with donors, some of the lead donors suggested a great idea. Instead of shipping bottled water to the village, why doesn’t the organization build a water well for the village? The organization said this would cost more money in the short-term. Recognizing the well as a better solution, the donors agreed to increase their support to make the project possible. The village got a new water well. The new well was only possible because the organization honestly communicated with its donors. Honesty really is the best policy!

    • Michael, thank you for your comments. They are always appreciated.
      I am truly amazed that so many organizations think they are doing themselves a favor by hiding things from their supporters. When the things they are hiding come to light, they lose the trust of those who support them. As so many politicians find out, it’s not the mistakes that kill you, it’s the cover ups.

  2. Pingback: Clairity Click-it: Donor Love is in the Air! - Clairification

  3. Richard, Great post! I often tell my clients and audiences at speaking events that communication is THE key to success in life. And it’s especially true with donors. NPOs often “keep secrets” from their supporters so that they don’t “look bad.” I say honest and transparent communication is oh so much more powerful and authentic and it allows supporters to know exactly what to do next: attend an event, help to close a funding gap, visit the legislature to help get a bill passed, or something else. Clear, bold, communication causes people to take action.

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