Elyse Haines  ●  11/26/2019

7 Frequently Asked Questions From Donors — And How to Respond


Whether you use a fundraising agency or execute your donor marketing in-house, you likely will eventually hear from someone who doesn’t want to receive your communications via mail, email, or phone. Incorrect information in your donor database, issues from the list broker, and changing donor preferences can lead to unwanted connections.

Best case scenario? The recipient calls or emails your charity to complain, which puts you in two-way conversation and creates an opportunity for you to alleviate concerns or cultivate interest.

Note: If you do work with a donor marketing agency like TrueSense, it’s important that you (the charity) responds to donor inquiries yourself. It’s a unique opportunity to win over a member of your own community and to raise the standing of your brand. Donors want to hear directly from the organization they’re supporting! 



Here are 7 donor FAQs, with example answers to help you respond to those difficult questions and use the opportunity to deepen the relationship with potential supporters.

Pro Tip: In all the instances below, you’ll want the donor’s name and mailing/email address as it appears on the appeal. This information is vital to accurately answer their question or update their record in your CRM. 


1. Question: How did you get my name?

Answer: “We know our donors well. Our research showed us that you are very similar to most of the donors that support <name of your nonprofit>. That is why you received our communications.”

If the prospect asks for the list from which their name was obtained, you can research the list based on the appeal code and can contact the prospect to let them know the list name. The Ethical Guidelines for direct marketing, established by the Association of National Advertisers, dictate that this information that must be provided if a prospect asks. The prospect can then contact the list that shared their name to ask to not have their name shared.

All ethical direct marketers use the DMA Pander File in all acquisition mailings. In a case where the prospect doesn’t want to receive mail from any organizations in the future, registering their name and address here will help with that. Prospects are often thankful for this additional tip. It can improve the tone of what could be a defensive conversation.


2. Question: Can you take me off your mailing list?

Answer: “We will make sure your name is suppressed from future mailings. However, there may be some follow-up mailings that are already in production — so please be aware that you may still receive additional mail in the next couple of months. Would you prefer to hear about the impact of your gift via email or telephone?”

Don’t assume that just because a donor doesn’t want to hear from you in one channel means that they don’t want to hear from you at all. Depending on the conversation, you could offer options like limiting their mailings to one per year, or provide quarterly newsletters or impact reports, instead of suppressing them altogether.

Important: If you make the offer to only communicate with donors in a preferred channel or cadence, make sure your team is prepared to filter donor lists by communication preferences before reaching out. It’s important that you only make a promise to a donor that you can fulfill. 


3. Question: Is my gift tax deductible?

Answer: “Our charity is a 501(c)(3) organization. Depending on how you file your taxes, your gift to us may be tax deductible. Your accountant would be able to give you accurate tax advice.”

Refrain from giving tax or legal advice to donors. Answer with facts about your charity’s standing, but also encourage the donor to seek proper counsel.


4. Question: I want to give to you, but I don’t want to receive all of this mail? Is that possible?

Answer: “Thank you so much for calling. <Name of your charity> appreciates your support and I’m sorry to hear that you feel like you’ve been getting too much mail from us. Would you be interested in joining <Sustainer Program, if named> by making regular gifts via credit card or EFT? Many of our donors find this program to be a convenient way to continue their impact without receiving mailings.”

Again, instead of automatically suppressing a donor from all contacts, recognize that a request for less mail is a perfect trigger for inviting someone into your sustainer program! Many of your best donors are thoughtful about the money you spend sending them mail or freemium items. Giving your donors an option to reduce the amount of mail they receive while maintaining their level of impact with monthly giving is a win-win.

If they decline the invitation, you can always provide them with mail-cadence options like once per year appeals or quarterly newsletters to make sure your brand stays in front of them on a reduced cadence. Just make sure your team and CRM are up for the challenge so you’re able to fulfill your offer.


5. Question: Why did I receive mail with someone else’s information in it?

Answer: “I’m so sorry the information on your mailing was incorrect — we truly appreciate your support and want to make sure we’re addressing you correctly moving forward. Would you be able to send pictures of the mailing you received to <email address>? I want to make sure we fully investigate what happened. Could you also give me your correct mailing details so that I can update your record in our files?”

To fix the problem, you’ll want to get the donor’s name and address as it appears on the appeal. The error could be due to dirty data, a printing mismatch (e.g. an outer envelope was mismatched from the letter), or a host of other reasons. The best way to investigate (internally or with your agency) is to get a scan or photo of the incorrect mailing.

Depending on the piece — for example, a personalized supporter card — you may want to offer to send them a corrected one for their records. Note: This could introduce some challenges from a production standpoint, so make sure that is worked out before you make any offers to donors!


6. Question: I’ve called before to be removed from your mailing list. Why did I still get mail from your charity?

Answer: “I’m so sorry you received mail you requested not to receive. Let me get to the bottom of this … ”

  • Reason 1: Spelling Error

    Check to see if the spelling of their name and/or address are the same on the database file for suppression vs. how they were mailed in the most recent solicitation. If the name or address is spelled wrong on either your donor database or rented list, it could result in the person being mailed. Normally you will see the reason right there — last name, street address, and/or city spelled differently when comparing side by side.
  • Reason 2: Timing

    Be sure to look at timing compared to the file pull and list processing. When was the donor marked DO NOT MAIL in the database? When was the donor added as a donor to the database? If it was after the suppression file was pulled for the mailing, they could have been included.

In either case, make sure you report back to the caller and let them know when to anticipate their last mailing (if there are more in production that can’t be stopped) or that you’ve added the additional spelling to your suppression list — and potentially give them the name of the rental list with the incorrect data so that they can reach out to that organization.


7. Question: Why did you mail someone who is deceased?

Answer: “I’m so sorry that this happened. And I’m so sorry for your loss. There are a few reasons this might have happened. Let me help clear this up … ”

  • Reason 1: The family continued to make gifts in the deceased person’s name.

    Sometimes a family member or spouse will continue to make gifts in the name of their loved one. Therefore, when we rent the active donors of other organizations who are similar to ours to see if they’re interested in partnering with us, we would receive the name of someone who is deceased.
  • Reason 2: Timing

    If you used the DMA Pander File, people submitted to the DMA as deceased will be removed. So, if a deceased person was mailed, their name was either not entered in the DMA Choice program yet — or wasn’t entered at the time the mailing was processed.  

In either case, make sure you’re reporting back to the caller that you’ve properly marked their relative in your database and won’t be sending them mail moving forward. Let them know that the deceased made a lasting impact through <your organization’s mission> and that their contributions were truly appreciated.


We hope these sample answers to common donor questions will guide you in building transformational relationships with your supporters.


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