If donors are leaving your NFP, the solution may be as simple as checking your asks and thank yous. Seedling’s Jess Bowman tells us more.

Donors are a critical part of almost every charity. They allow you to take risks and deliver projects that the government is reluctant to support. Passionate donors can help bring attention to your charity’s great work, leveraging your brand and reputation. Most importantly, donor income allows you to provide a great quality of care to your beneficiaries and deliver high quality outcomes.

We know that donors who are aligned with your mission will be eager to support your charity. However, like any relationship, as soon as you take them for granted, they will divert their attention elsewhere.

We frequently hear from disgruntled donors who have been so disappointed with the charities they give to that they cancel their ongoing donations. In this article we outline the main reasons why donors disengage with nonprofits and what can you do to stop it.

Donors don’t like to be deceived into giving

Charities adopt a variety of approaches to secure donations, and some of these present unique challenges. Some nonprofits may recruit face-to-face staff to stop people in the street and ask leading questions – questions some donors feel they cannot say no to. Some NFPs present heart-wrenching stories that make donors feel like action is urgent when it may not be. Some charities ask donors to sign a petition and are not clear that their contact details will be used for a donation ask at a later date.

Donors don’t want to be deceived into giving. As one of our donors put it, “Of course I care about starving children! But don’t coerce me into giving off the back of that guilt”. By making someone feel so bad that they give is a recipe for a disgruntled donor. Not only do they know they’ve been coerced, these donors feel stupid because they couldn’t say no.

To ensure that you only attract donors who align closely with your cause, provide them with meaningful ways to find your charity. Let donors embark on a journey where they come to your doorstop, willing and excited. This requires a marketing strategy where it’s easy to find you, including strong SEO, authentic social media (not ads), public relations and compelling fundraising activities.

Donors like to be thanked

We know a donor that gave more than $20,000 to a charity and didn’t receive a thank you. Not only that, she had to follow up her tax receipt. This charity had received her donation, but completely failed to acknowledge her contribution.

When you don’t thank a donor for their donation, no matter how small, it gives them an uneasy feeling that their money wasn’t noticed. It makes them feel like their donation was not necessary  for your nonprofit to pursue its mission. Sometimes donors worry the money wasn’t even processed, or went to a false bank account.

Saying “thank you” is easy. It gives donors confidence that their money is needed and is making a difference.

Donors don’t want persistent “asks”

Donors quickly become overwhelmed when the only communication they receive from a charity is about the various urgent crises they need funding for. In fact, when the majority of the communication is asking for more money, donors will undoubtedly disengage.

Donors want to know that their donation is solving problems. This requires you to share with them information on the outcomes of your work. The clearer it is to them that you don’t just ask for money, and that you actually solve problems, the more willing they will be to support you over the long term.

Donors don’t want their money wasted

Donors frequently complain to us about the excessive waste of charities sending them glossy magazines. They know these publications are expensive to produce and feel like it is a complete waste of money.

Fundraising costs money, of course it does. But when donors feel money is being spent on unnecessarily expensive fundraising or marketing activity, this gives them the impression that the charity doesn’t take their donation seriously.

Ask your donor: how would they like to be communicated with? You might find that the majority will have a strong preference not to receive expensive publications.

Giving your donors the confidence to support you

All across Australia, donors are frustrated by the way charities have treated them. Many good-hearted donors feel like nothing more than a wallet. It is possible to regain your donors’ trust by simply engaging them as a valued person. Show them they are important to you, tell them how their donation made a real difference and ask them how they would like to hear from you in the future. Importantly, don’t just engage them when you want more money. These simple steps might just give your donors the confidence they need to continue to support you.


This article was written by Jess Bowman, co-founder of Seedling.

Seedling is Australia’s first and only charity matching service. Seedling’s qualified advisors learn about a donor’s values, passions, life experiences and tailor a charitable giving opportunity specific to them. Seedling works with both regular givers and major donors.

If you’d like to be a charity on Seedling’s radar or to find out more information check out the Seedling charity page. Or if you are looking to find a high performing charity to support, sign up to Seedling here.


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