The focus of this post is the giving experience. What kind of giving experience – what thoughts, impressions, positives, frustrations – does a donor have when donating to your cause?
It’s easier to keep a donor than to get a new one. A church that’s letting donors slip away won’t be financially sound for long. But many churches, and nonprofits generally, just don’t do the things necessary to keep ties with their donors strong. Donors often complain about their giving experience.
4. Say thank you.
Author and nonprofit adviser Kivi Leroux Miller did an experiment. She sent donations to 12 national charities, $20 each, and waited to see how many thank-you’s would come back.
No donor respect.
Not good enough, charity.
Recall from Adrian Sargeant [link to graph] the third biggest reason donors quit giving to a charity: no acknowledgment.
5. Think about who your donors are and then about how to do outreach.
It’s about the donor, and the donor is not you.
Keep that in mind when you’re thinking through how you’re going to reach out to donors and keep in touch with them, and what kind of language you’re going to use. As Mary Cahalane explains in “4 Ways You Might be Making It All About You”, don’t just go with what seems best to you. Consider the donor.
Maybe you don’t like phones (or maybe it’s email or Facebook). If that’s how your donors prefer to communicate, you need to reach out to them in the way they’re most comfortable.
6. Provide different giving options.
People handle money very differently. Some prefer online giving, some writing checks, some giving their credit card over the phone, and so on. Some like to interact with a real person when they give, some prefer to avoid the interaction.
Keep in mind that there’s a growing number of young adults who have never written a check. Online and text giving are important if you want to get this crowd. According to Kirsty Weakley, a full third of 18 to 24-year-olds told surveyors that they would seek another charity if not able to give by text or online, and over half said that online and text giving encouraged them to give spontaneously. And that was back in 2011, just four years after the smartphone was a thing.
Spontaneously — that’s important. The window of opportunity when a donor feels like giving can be short.
On the other hand, some argue that because older people tend to have more money and are more likely to give to charities, you should focus your efforts on them.
On the other hand, how sound is the future of a church that focuses only on older donors?
On the other hand… No, there is no other hand! Tradition!
The takeaway is that more giving options mean less chance that a potential donor will slip away.
And one more thing about giving options: you may want to emphasize that even small contributions are important to you. When donors are navigating some rough financial seas, it’s important to keep welcoming and encouraging their donations, however meager. Once they stop giving, you may not see them again. Show appreciation for even very small gifts.
7. Keep donors updated.
James Berkeley captures this idea with a great metaphor:
One year, I took the church youth group to Fourth of July fireworks on the beach in California. We told everyone how fun it would be. We wrote it up in the youth flier. We gathered at the beach and roasted marshmallows. This was going to be great!
Then the fog rolled in. What we saw that evening was a random set of faint glows in the thick fog.
That should not be the experience of the congregation following the big buildup of a stewardship campaign. After the flurry of activity, publicity, and appeals, people deserve more than random faint glows of follow-up information.
Let the donors know regularly how their gifts are making a difference. (Notice how I phrased that?) It’s essential for donors to feel connected to the story of how your mission is playing out and improving lives.
Also, be sure to give donors regular, clear statements of what they’ve given. That’s important not just for acknowledging their gifts but also for tax purposes. The statements should have
- the date of each gift,
- the amount of each gift,
- the fund or purpose for each gift,
- and the total given.
Also, if you’re using pledges, the statement should show donors where they’re at in fulfilling their pledge.