7 questions a donor should never have to ask you

Published on 17th January 2020

7 Questions you do not want to answer – Effective Fundraising Communication.

While this is by no means a technical paper, the content of this write up can be used by any fundraising team looking to boost its relationship with its donors. It is more likely to apply to individual donors and not institutional, but will no doubt come in handy as a means of setting best practice.

1. “Did you get my check?”
Wait, what?… That happens you ask ?
Thanking your donor should be top priority in your donor communications strategy. It may sound shocking, but more often than you realize, people who give their hard earned funds to charities or a social cause do not receive the courtesy of a “Thank You”. It’s not enough to simply send out a tax receipt acknowledging their gift, you need to send them a thoughtful gracious thank you note. Be sure
to put the note in the mail as soon as you receive the check. Not only is it sloppy, it is anti-climactic if they have to call your office to find out if you’ve received their gift and then your note arrives in their mailbox five weeks later. A prompt response to a generous gesture in any relationship goes a long way to leaving a positive and memorable impression. Leave your donors with the right impression.

2. “What happened to that project you were working on?”
This may be more relatable to more people compared to the first one. Here’s to putting it very simply; Don’t leave your donors and potential donors hanging out on a limb. It is not their job to wonder what you are up to. So many organizations spend the bulk of their energy and creativity coming up with new projects and programs that do not make it past the co-creation or inception phase. The problem is, they
never inform their donors. The donor reads about a great new project or program that you want them to participate in funding and then a year later, they find out it was abandoned. Not only does it make you look inept or like you didn’t do your homework in the first place, it sends a message to your donors that you only consider them as a partner when it comes to giving you money. They need to be a part and feel a part of the entire process from beginning to end.

3. “Did you reach your match funding goal?”
This is more of a courtesy than gratitude. Whether it is matched funding or another goal that you have urgently solicited funds for, you need to communicate the results back to your donors, never make them have to ask you first. If it was important enough for you to bring it up in the first place, it should be equally important for you to give feedback and complete the communication cycle. A lack of adequate communication may will leave questions in your donors’ mind such as; I wonder if they ever raised enough money to qualify for that grant; or, I never heard anything more about the new gravity fed water system they said were so desperately needed. Follow up is important
for two reasons. First, you need to communicate every step of the way to ensure your donor is on the same page as you. They should have all the information they need to understand the status of your joint project and funding goals. Secondly, if you did not meet your goal, they may have been willing to help you reach your objective. If the funding didn’t meet your expectations but they were unaware of the
progress, you lost an important opportunity.

4. “Did you get my call?”
Donors are your lifeblood. They may not be sitting next to you in your office, saying hello in the hall or sitting in your board meetings, but you need to think of them in that manner. Think of them as your supporters, cheerleaders and a lifeline. They are key stakeholders in doing what you are passionate about. Without donors to fund the social change that you so desperately want to see, the pace and
impact may not be as great as it is now. When a donor calls, writes or emails you, respond promptly. They are crucial to your success. Show them respect and make them a priority. You need to be there for them just as much as you want and need them to be there for you.

5. “Did my gift help?”
If you gifted your old van to the neighborhood community center to deliver food and transport the elderly, would you not want to know how it’s being used and want some communication about the impact and reach of your gift? If you wrote a check to help build training centers for the community, don’t you want to see the impact?
The answer is Yes, Yes and Yes. Your donors should never be in a position to come to you to find out if their gift was meaningful and if it was allocated appropriately. Let them know how their gift made a significant and direct impact, and be specific.

6. “Do you know me?”
Get to know your donors, emphasize the word “your” in your communication with them. It is essential to have a system that alerts all of the key personnel in your organization as to who is giving what. While some major donors like to remain anonymous or keep a low profile, do not assume that is the case for everyone. Furthermore, you need to make it your job to know who your donors are. By that, I don’t mean just by the amount they give. For example: Yes that’s donor 10115, the one who gave £10,000, as if they are just another number on a board. Aim for: Yes, that’s Mr Deji Smith. He’s a doctor from Devon. He gave £10,000 to the India project at our Fundraiser. So, when Deji approaches you at your next fundraiser, or calls your office, you and your key staff know exactly who Deji is.

7. “How much of my contribution was spent towards the African appeal?”
Donors want to feel like their donations matter and is being used to achieve a goal that you are both passionate about. Some organizations achieve this point in the form of monthly emails or monthly newsletter while some do nothing at all. It is as important to deliver that project as it is to report on the spend and project deliverables that were designed at the onset, especially to the donors. Do not leave
your donor wondering what proportion of their gift was spent on administration, program activities and overhead. Be transparent, honest and share relevant lessons learned while implementing the project. This will give your donor an insight into the real life challenges and successes involved with project implementation in some of the most difficult places to work around the world and an endearment
towards your cause. Of course, you need to be wise and prudent in how you spend funds because it is a direct reflection on
your credibility.

In summary, you need to view your donors as partners who are working with you toward the same goals. In order to do that, you both need to know what each other is thinking. Communication is pivotal to the success of reaching your joint objectives. By communication, I mean two-way communication. They are people. They have names, interests, preferences, goals and lives just like you. Get to know who they are, what is important to them and why it is important. If you are only looking for a quick injection of finances and not a long-term partnership, then that is what you will get.

Findev Consulting Limited is a UK based consultancy that provides grant management training to NGOs and civil society organisation. We have worked with numerous nonprofits across 3 continents, focusing on proposal development, strategic planning and project evaluation.

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Written by:
Simon O
FINDEV Communication Expert
January 2020