How to Dissuade a Donor in 5 Easy Steps

By: Heather H. Thornton, Project Manager

The holidays tend to bring out my more magnanimous side, and I made a donation to a couple of charities in December.  The organizations to which I gave are lesser known, and I chose them based on how the work they are doing resonated with me and my values.

For one organization, I made the gift online and immediately received a confirmation email thanking me for my contribution.  And, I received a thank you note and a bumper sticker in the mail that next week – an acceptable turnaround time for acknowledgements.  However, they had been emailing me weekly with various “news” items, none of which I personally found useful, and I subsequently unsubscribed from the emails after a month of deleting them from my inbox.

This reminded me of another organization – a university – to whom I donated 10 years ago and never made a subsequent gift or had any contact with.  I have called to ask them to stop sending me items, but they continue to send me hard copy mail every several months.  Although this is just a minor annoyance, it got me thinking about ways in which an organization could potentially dissuade a donor from giving again:

  1. Inundating a donor with “junk mail” – Either by email or snail mail. As it did to me, this may just irritate a donor enough to make them unlikely to contribute again.
  2. Not asking for a donor’s feedback. There is a reason your donor chose to contribute in the first place – maybe your mission resonated with them, perhaps they wanted to support a specific program or initiative…whatever the reason, it would serve your organization well to try and get to know the donor a little better and to find out what makes them tick (and subsequently, perhaps, give)….asking questions is a great way to know how to best further engage a donor.  Maybe they are not a potentially large donor, but perhaps they could be a great asset to your board?  You never know until you ask!
  3. Not thanking a donor properly for a gift. Timeliness of acknowledgements is key, as is a well-crafted message that relays appreciation for their generosity.
  4. Assuming how much they can/will give. Although I may have given just small amounts to these two organizations, those amounts could certainly increase under the right circumstances if I felt l you ask! entially large donor, but perhaps they could be a great asset to your board?  you de a donor from giviinvolved and invested.
  5. Not keeping a donor informed. There is a fine line between inundating your donors and “keeping them in the loop.”  As you get to know your donors better, you will find out which communication methods they prefer and how often they wish to be contacted, but keeping them at least moderately informed of the happenings at your organization may make them more likely to give again.

As this New Year continues at a lightning-fast pace, don’t forget that it is more cost effective to retain existing donors than to acquire new ones and that your donors are some of your organization’s best assets ….so steward them accordingly.