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How You Treat Your Donors is the Foundation of Your Donor Program

Organizations come to me all the time wanting me to find them donors. So they can turn around and ask them for money.

They come to me because they have a problem: they need to raise money to fulfill their important mission.

And they think the solution is finding new donors. Or having new donors handed to them. So they can ask for money.

Those leaders are often deeply disappointed when I focus the conversation on how they treat their donors, rather than focusing on the core problem of finding new ones.

But I’ve been working with major donors for a long time, and I’ve raised millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations.

And I have learned that what will impact your individual donor program most isn’t spending all your time finding new people to give you money.

Fundraising is about building relationships with people who want the kind of impact your organization is offering. And then making sure you’re asking them for donations when they're ready.

This is why I start my conversations with organizations wanting to know how they treat their donors.

It is much easier to retain the donors you have than go out and acquire new ones.

Plus, if you’re going to put in all that hard work to find new donors, you really want them to give again.

Here’s the hard truth:

  1. If you are an average nonprofit in the U.S., you are losing 50%-60% of your donors each year.

  2. And for donors who give to you for the first time, the retention rate is even worse. You will lose 70%-80% of new donors.

A successful individual donor fundraising program all comes back to how you treat your donors.

And most nonprofits do not treat their donors nearly well enough.

So I’ll ask again, before you decide your only fundraising goal is to find new donors: How do you treat your donors?

Because if you don’t treat your donors well, all of your work to find those new donors is just making up for the donors you lose. You’re just keeping up with churn. And maybe not even that.

And you won’t be able to keep those new donors anyway (or you won’t keep roughly 80% of them).

Are you ready to stop spinning your wheels and invest in your organization’s fundraising success? Download the Love Your Donors Toolkit and build a strategy to love your donors all year long.


Megan Amundson is a nonprofit consultant who trains and coaches leaders of small and medium-sized nonprofits to raise more money from individuals.

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