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December 11, 2019

The 9 Things Your Donors Don’t Care About


Your donors freely share their blessings in order to help their neighbors in need. And they chose you to be the vessel for their philanthropy. They care deeply about your work and want to partner with you in your mission. Of all of the charities focused on rectifying the same problem, they entrust you with their giving.

Sounds like a perfect match, right? It can be.

But unfortunately well-meaning nonprofit leaders can lose sight of the goal of their donor marketing programs — that it’s all about the donor and building a strong relationship with her.


Instead, people working at the charity get bogged down with operational issues or leadership preferences that the donor doesn’t care about or, worse, that negatively impact her relationship with your charity.


Your donor doesn’t care about these 9 things:

  1. Which fiscal year her gift falls into. This is especially confusing to a donor if your charity’s fiscal year doesn’t run on a calendar year. Say your calendar year begins on July 1. If a donor made her gift in June 2018, but hasn’t made another gift and it’s September of 2019, you’d consider her lapsed. But she knows she just made a gift last year. When crafting your appeals to lapsed donors, consider the time since last gift, not only the fiscal years.
  2. That it’s your charity’s 70th (or whatever) anniversary! This is all about you — not your donor. Unless a donor personally had something to do with your founding, the fact that you’re celebrating an anniversary isn’t likely to deepen your relationship with her.
  3. The semantics of restricted vs. unrestricted gifts. While some donors care about the specific way their gift is used (like in the case of disaster relief), most donors give just because they’re asked. 
    Check out our how-to guide to learn more about unrestricted giving.
  4. The minutiae of your brand. Even if your brand color is lime green, it’s ok use a red envelope for the holidays. Similarly, your donors won’t know if the handwritten font on a direct mail appeal matches the letter signer’s actual handwriting. Your donors won’t notice these details, and your brand can still be apparent in the voice and visuals of your communications. 
  5. Whether the stories in your appeal are local. Charities often want to use local stories and photo resources (which cost more), citing that donors might ask how that specific animal or family is doing. That rarely, if ever, happens. What donors do care about is that their gift is making an impact in their local community. Your creative should be able to tell that story. Using other available resources is a great way to steward the money your donors have entrusted you with.
  6. Providing extra information with her gift. While extra information about your donors — like her email address or how she heard about your charity or why she chooses to give — is vital information for you to build a strong relationship with your donor, she might not care to provide it at the time she makes her gift. Pay attention to when and how you ask for additional insight into your donor. Most importantly, make sure these questions aren’t a barrier to her making a gift. As an example, if she’s making a gift online, don’t make it required for her to answer “how she heard about the charity” in order to process her donation. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to give.  
  7. Your charity’s founder. Unless your donor has a personal connection to your founder, chances are she’ll care more about what her gift will do today.
  8. That you’re sending “too much” mail. Charities often think they are over-mailing donors when the donors don’t necessarily see it that way. However, they may think they’re being asked for money too often. Communications that have soft asks or even no asks, but provide information about the impact the donor is making, are often valued.
  9. That you’re in a capital campaign. Capital campaigns are a great way to connect with your major donors and foundations. However, your annual fund donors aren’t your capital campaign donors. During capital campaigns, your nonprofit might want to scale back direct marketing, but this isn’t necessary since the audiences don’t overlap. And even better — usually direct marketing performs even better during a campaign because there is greater community awareness.

Your donors care deeply about your mission and partnering with you to heal the world. Center your fundraising around growing strong relationships with your supporters, and your donor marketing will always be on track to motivate her to make her next gift.  


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