They care about who you help. Slight but big difference. And they care about themselves. Something you can’t ignore. Donors don’t care about you (the organization, the brand, the institution) but you better care about them if you want to stand any chance of experiencing fundraising success.

In a discussion the other day around this topic, donor “unloyalty”, I was asked “why do you think this is?”. My response was “charities are the heroes of their own stories when the donors need to be the heroes of the story”. When charities are the heroes of their own stories they treat their donors like bit parts, extras. So they leave. When donors are the heroes of the story, they get treated as such, essential. So they stay.

I’ve made the case for there being a problem with the stories nonprofits are telling and if you need some extra convincing here’s some of the latest numbers. They are¬†embarrassing. Check out this infographic from Jay Love and the Bloomerang team on Katya’s blog.


If your donors really cared about you (the organization, the brand, the institution) would 63% of them really be leaving you just a year after giving to you for the first time? Would almost 60% of them leave you in a year? Would only 3% of nonprofits keep just 70% of their donors?

But that’s just the point. Donors don’t give to brands, organizations, and instituions. They give to make themselves feel good and help others. So how can you improve your retention rate and truly build donor loyalty? Simple. MAKE DONORS FEEL GOOD and SHOW DONORS HOW THEY ARE HELPING OTHERS! It’s¬†shockingly simple. Here’s a couple quick ideas on how you can do each.


  • Personalize everything as much as you can (which starts with collecting good data)
  • Send them cards (not crappy “didn’t cost us any resources” eCards but real “we took time to get these for you” cards)
  • Phone them to say thanks
  • Actively seek their advice and input
  • Tell stories of donors, like them, that are helping


  • Have your CEO write one blog post a month where she shares “insider” information (I met one of our programs staff who said she’s never seen our clients so happy”
  • Capture photos of not just your work but who your work is helping (Instagram can be great here)
  • Use video to summarize a project or program that donors have funded
  • Tell the story of ONE PERSON whose life is directly changed because of the donor’s support
  • Invite them on a site visit, tour of the office or trip to the ground to see the work for themselves

We are entering an age where loyalty will determine which organizations will succeed and which ones will fail. Only it is not the donor’s loyalty to you that we are talking about. It is your loyalty to the donor that will determine who emerges victorious.