7 Reasons your nonprofit keeps losing donors

Do you feel trapped on a never-ending hamster wheel with your fundraising efforts? You go through tremendous efforts to attract new donors only to lose the ones you already had. You are not alone. In 2015, a survey of nonprofits found that “every 100 donors gained in 2014 was offset by 103 in lost donors.” So the key question is why are you losing your donors? Here are 7 reasons why you might losing donors and what you can do to keep them.

#1 Your donors don’t feel important.

All your efforts have paid off and you have a new donor. You send them an automated email thanking them for their donation and then… nothing. No contact at all, that is, until you would like another donation. Does this sound familiar? If so, your donor probably feels like a number.

While it’s impossible to send a hand-written note to every donor, there are some things you can do. Try sending thank you emails throughout the year with cute gifs or quotes to make them smile (without asking for more money). You can give them a shout out on social media. A phone call is time-consuming, but when is the last time someone took the time to call you and tell you how important you are? How did it make you feel? Pretty dang special I’d imagine.  You can also partner with local businesses to send your donors discounts or other goodies.

#2 Your donors don’t feel supported.

If your donors have committed to monthly, quarterly or annual contributions how easy is it for them to pay? Do you expect them to do all the work? Make it easy on your donors with reminder emails and links where they can pay online. If they prefer to pay by check, send them out 12 (if monthly) pre-addressed, stamped envelopes.

#3 Your donors don’t believe their contributions make a difference.

Does your nonprofit highlight your largest donors and forget the little guy? Then your donor probably feels overlooked. Most donors cannot afford to make large contributions and might feel their small donations are inconsequential.

Make sure you highlight the contribution of all your donors, but especially the little guys. Be sure to send out information about how much was raised by people contributing $20 or less. You can let them know what percentage of your donors donate $50 or less. Personalize it by letting them know how far $20 can go (i.e. how many meals it could provide, how many people will be helped, etc.).

#4 Your donors don’t feel a personal connection to your cause.

Do you engage your donors? Do you ever seek to find out why they donated to your nonprofit? If you did, the answers might surprise you. You have an invaluable resource in people who believe enough in your cause to give you money. Why not use that resource? You can ask for suggestions, send out a survey to see exactly why they donated or what they hope you will be able to accomplish in the future. When you ask people their opinions, they feel you truly care.

#5 Your donors feel the relationship is one-sided.

Do you make all your correspondences about you? Your accomplishments, your important dates, your big news? Why should your donors care about that? They probably didn’t donate because of you specifically; they did it to help others. So give them personal stories about lives being improved. Tug on those heartstrings with smiling pictures of kids, or moms, or animals (OK, most animals don’t smile, but you get the picture). Make them feel that they made a difference, not that you made a difference.

#6 Your donors don’t trust you.

Do you expect people to keep donating without letting them know where the money is going? If so, you are fostering mistrust in your nonprofit. According to the National Council of Nonprofits “Leaders of charitable nonprofits know that financial transparency will help preserve the very-important trust each donor places in a nonprofit with each contribution.” In today’s world transparency is everything so plan on making it a high priority.

#7 Your donors can’t afford it anymore.

Unfortunately, circumstances change. People might need to decrease their contribution or stop it all together. That doesn’t mean you need to lose those donors. See if you can engage them in volunteering or fundraising efforts that doesn’t require a financial contribution. SplashPlay is an online trivia platform that helps nonprofits get the funds they need without asking anyone to donate any money, purchase anything or attend any events. Only play trivia.

Remember it’s much cheaper to keep the donors you have than constantly trying to get new ones. Beyond that, cultivating a relationship is much more fulfilling than trying to come up with different ways to reach new donors.

One thought on “7 Reasons Your Nonprofit Keeps Losing Donors

  • Hollie Hawley

    I’m on a few lists of organizations that I’ve given money to or have volunteered for. They email periodically to let their donors know about the work they’re doing. The best ones talk about real people whose lives have been affected by the work the organizations do. I’m much more likely to give to them again than to organizations that I never hear from.


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