5 Communication Errors That Lose Donors–And How to Avoid Them

When you have something important to say, it comes out loud and clear. Because if it doesn’t, the meaning gets lost in translation. And as a nonprofit, you lose when communication fails.

Jay Love, current CEO and Co-founder of Bloomerang and Senior Vice President of Avectra, recently posted on the importance of understanding why donors stop supporting an organization. According to research from Bloomerang’s chief scientist Adrian Sargeant, the largest percentage of people (54 percent) said that they stopped donating because they could no longer afford it.

However, five separate reasons—all involving communication issues—added up to 53 percent of the people polled. With such an easy fix, it seems silly to let those donors get away. Don’t let these common fundraising errors happen to your organization. Here are some reasons donors leave and how to make them stay.

1. I Didn’t Hear Your Message Loud or Clear.

Even if you thought your communication tactics were easily understandable, you’ll never know what your constituents are thinking if you don’t ask. A total of 18 percent of donors polled said they stopped donating because of poor service or communication. But there is always room to improve.

Make it a goal to personally ask each donor how your organization is doing. They’ll be more apt to stay if they feel that you’re putting in the effort to fix any problems. Plus, feedback can help improve communication for future donors. Sending an online survey is quick and easy to gain feedback.

2. I Never Received Any Thanks.

It’s obvious that you should thank your donors—or so we thought. Yet 13 percent stopped donating because they were never thanked for doing so. And if we say so ourselves, receiving no appreciation is a pretty good reason to leave. So send them an email detailing the reasons their contribution mattered.

Even better, send a personalized handwritten letter. It takes more time to get out the pen and paper, but it also means much more to the recipient. In an age where Internet is supreme, the unorthodox will stand out from the crowd. Add some personality and flair for a memorable message.

3. I Don’t Remember Giving to Your Organization.

One of the worst and most preventable communication errors involves a complete memory loss of the organization. Nine percent of people polled had no memory of supporting the organization. It could be because they gave a small contribution and weren’t emotionally attached to the organization. But you can hook them.

The best way to make sure they remember your org is to get their information… then use it. Even if they hand you a cash donation, take down a phone number or email address. It may not always be possible, but an updated database of donors is the easiest way to reach donors and to jog their memory.

4. I Didn’t Know How You Used My Money.

So their money went toward your organization. But that’s not enough info for most people. Eight percent of those polled didn’t know how their previous donation was being used so they left. For all the donor knows, their money was used to buy refreshments for an office party. That’s why the more detail you can give will help increase retention.

5. I Didn’t Think You Needed the Money.

Five percent didn’t feel that their contribution was necessary to the organization. But if you’ve fixed problem four (see above) then your donors will know that their contribution carried value. Your organization has a constant monetary need to help achieve your mission, and you can help donors realize that their contributions matter by giving them a gentle reminder.

How has your organization improved communication to land returning donors?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

February 6, 2013

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