How to Lose a Donor in 10 Days

By: Elizabeth Smith, Project Coordinator

 One of my favorite movies is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; it is a classic rom-com that is perfect for rainy days and a glass of wine. In the movie, Andi (played by Kate Hudson) attempts every dating faux pas in the book to get her beau to break up with her as research for an article she is writing.

What I’ve realized in the fundraising field is that development is a lot like dating. You’ve got to have the right organization, right solicitor and donor combination as well as the right time and place. Just as in dating, even with all the stars aligned there are certain faux pas which could lead to the donor breaking up with you.

  1. Failure to properly acknowledge a donor and their wants. Simple and easy solution – say thanks! Always send a formal acknowledgement letter and depending on the relationship with the donor and gift size, follow up with a personal thank you note and ask the Board Chair to send a note as well.
  2. Failure to close the circle before starting again. Many times around the end of year appeal, letters are sent out before previous gifts have been properly acknowledged. Asking again can be risky and cause donors to give less/stop giving. Make sure you have closed the loop on all previous gifts before soliciting for a new one.
  3. Failure to communicate with the donors. Your messages should be communicated on multiple platforms and in multiple styles. Keep your organization at the front of their minds by updating social media platforms, inviting to serve as a volunteer, and even something as simple as a “thinking of you” email.
  4. Failure to pay attention. Get to know your donors on a personal level, know the live events that are happening and plan accordingly. Be either sensitive or aggressive.
  5. Failure to reach out again. Often times when asked, donors need to consult with family or financial planners before making a decision. Reach back out to the donor if you have not heard back within a week unless the donor gives a specific timeframe. They duty of follow up is with the person doing the asking.
  6. Failure to be decisive. Know what you are asking for and what it will go towards. Whether it is for the annual fund, capital campaign, or yearend appeal, know the facts to make the ask.
  7. Failure to ask for the gift. Making excuses for people is one of the worst things a development officer or volunteer can do. This could lead to the donor feeling uninvolved or not important.
  8. Failure to listen. Listen to the wants and needs of each donor. Every donor is different and assumptions can lead to a lost relationship.
  9. Failure to focus on current donors. Sometimes we get wrapped up in acquiring new donors that our current donors get placed on the back burner. Current donors are your best prospects and should not be forgotten.
  10. Failure to show emotion. People give based on emotions. Tell your story of why the organization is important to you and why you are a part of it.

As with every relationship, it takes time. If only we had match.com for donors and nonprofits to speed up the process.