Help Your Donors!

Okay.  Now I am irritated. I tried, really hard, to make a charitable gift online.  A renewed gift, I might add.  But after 3 tries, I gave up.  I care a lot about this organization, and I will feel awful about not donating, but they are making it too hard.  The online form now wants so much information and if you get one thing wrong, or leave one thing out (really?  I can’t donate because I didn’t chose a title?) and then everything I already filled out once, twice, multiple times, gets erased and I have to start all over again. Over the years, I have felt myself become less and less philanthropic.  Sure, I still support a host of organizations, but I don’t get the same kind of joy I used to.  And mainly it’s because of the way I, as a donor, get treated.

Beyond the difficulty of giving to some (not all, but it only takes one to put a bad taste in my mouth), there is the automatic “thank you” responses---which almost always ask me to make another gift!  I just, and I do mean just, gave, and already you want more?

Then there is the fact that I am either totally ignored until the next appeal or my inbox is so inundated with mail—usually asking for more money, so maybe it is all the same—that I wish I didn’t have an email account.

Beyond that, too many organizations are asking me to give because of the tax deduction—which most of us won’t take because most of us will not be itemizing on our income taxes. This is like the huge number of organizations who sent me email on Giving Tuesday asking me to support them because…well, it IS Giving Tuesday! Try telling me how you impact your clients, and how I get to impact your mission.  In short, tell me why my gift matters.

Most charitable giving comes from individuals like you and me. And while most of us make smaller gifts, most of the money comes from a small minority who give larger gifts.  And, guess what?  Most of those people give because they have a personal relationship with someone or some program at the organization.  And yet, few organizations reach out personally to any of their donors. Is it any wonder that retention rates are low?

Note that I said “reach out” not take to lunch (and who does that anymore?), or coffee, not visit or even see in person.  Reach out—via phone, email, letter.  Say, hey, thanks for joining us.  Could you share with me why you care about what we do?  What part of our mission sings directly to you?  And, by the way, what do we need to do to keep you close?

Once you know what matters to me, then you can give me a thank you I’ll cherish.  You know, you said you cared about our program than helps educate adults, and guess what?  Your support allowed us to…..

It’s really not so hard. If every person in your organization who is responsible for fund development (and really, that should be every person in your organization) took 30 minutes a day to reach out personally to a few (pre-assigned) donors and start a dialog, it wouldn’t take that long to touch every one of your supporters.  The results will astonish you.

And now, frustrated as I am, I am going to try once again to make a gift to that organization that matters to me, and hope that somehow I also matter to them.


Janet Levine Consulting works to move nonprofits from mired to inspired.  Start this year off right by contacting me and arranging for a free, 30-minute zoom or telephone consultation.  And while you are doing that, go to, sign up for the monthly newsletter and see how I can help you increase your fundraising capacity.