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5 Ways You Can Ensure That Your Supporters Never Feel “Donor Remorse”

Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

donor remorseIt’s still stings. Every single time I see that nonprofit organization’s logo, it hurts.  
I had been making donations to this charity every year for at least 10 years. Maybe 15. And, I usually gave multiple donations each year.
Then I got a call from a fundraiser. I was excited. It felt good to be recognized. So we arranged a meeting date and time.
She came out to my office to visit. She was right on time. She was nice. Really nice! We talked for a while and she filled me in on some recent news. I told her I wanted to help by volunteering my time.
Then, without her even asking, I pulled out my checkbook and wrote her a check. It was the single largest donation I ever made. No, not Bill Gates BIG. But it was big to me. It had a comma in the number if that helps you get the picture.

What happened next?
About a month later, I received a form letter as a thank you. It had my name on it but, other than that, it was not personalized at all. There was no mention of anything we discussed. Her signature was at the bottom but it was inkjet— not signed with a real pen.
Months went by and it felt like I started getting a higher frequency of spammy emails asking for more donations. I got more direct mail asking for money too. But now they were suggesting larger donation amounts in their letters. “Very presumptuous,” I thought to myself. Especially since I had not heard from that perky fundraiser about any volunteering opportunities. Remember, I had mentioned that I wanted to help.

I guess she dumped me.
She never called, emailed, or wrote to me again— never.
I felt betrayed.

Donor remorse set in.
Now every time I see that organization’s logo, I feel used. While they may have used the money wisely, I can’t help but wish I had it back so I could give it to another organization. One that treated me more fairly. One that kept in touch with me with relevant news. One that sent me a list of volunteering opportunities. One that didn’t spam me so much with emails and junk mail asking for more donations at high gift levels. One that actually cared about me, allowed me to get involved, and let me know what they did with my money.

You can ensure that your supporters never experience donor remorse. It’s simple. Here’s how:

  1. Listen to your donors
  2. Follow-up with authentic engagement touches
  3. Deliver valuable offers that will interest your supporters (such as information, education, impact reports, opportunities for more involvement, and/or simple emotional communications about the cause)
  4. Ensure that your engagement is continuous and consistent
  5. And, even if you don’t have the time for serious, deep, personal contact, you can avoid donor remorse by sending “one-to-many communications” that feel genuine and authentic because they are highly relevant and personalized

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2 responses to “5 Ways You Can Ensure That Your Supporters Never Feel “Donor Remorse””

  1. Greg, thank you for a terrific, even if sad, post! It made me cringe. So many nonprofit organizations treat their donors like ATMs. However, even with an ATM, you have to put something into it before you can take something out.
    It’s so difficult and expensive to get new donors. The easy part of fundraising is keeping those donors. Yet, most organizations do a terrible job with the easy stuff. It never ceases to amaze me.

  2. Greg, thank you for a terrific, even if sad, post! It made me cringe. So many nonprofit organizations treat their donors like ATMs. However, even with an ATM, you have to put something into it before you can take something out.
    It’s so difficult and expensive to get new donors. The easy part of fundraising is keeping those donors. Yet, most organizations do a terrible job with the easy stuff. It never ceases to amaze me.

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