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Engaging Donors is a Science That Starts with One Simple Step

Are you a board member or executive director who knows your nonprofit inside and out? Do you consider yourself one of the best sources for your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising strategy?

Great. What’s the #1 reason donors give to your organization? How many first-time donors opted out of making a second gift? Why? What do donors think about your strategic plan?

If you can’t confidently answer these questions because you haven’t had a direct dialogue with your donor base in the last 12–24 months, your communications tactics are probably shaped by a single point of view: yours. Or your board of director’s.

When someone makes a financial gift to your nonprofit, it’s because its mission lives in their heart and their mind. They have perceptions and beliefs about how that gift will make an impact. Likewise, when someone passes up a chance to give or engage with you in some way, it’s for the same reason — their perception of your organization is missing the mark. Either the emotional hook isn’t there, or they’re rationalizing why your organization isn’t a good investment.

We’ve served many clients who thought they knew why donors did or didn’t give, and in every case, they were way off. The Catholic social services nonprofit who insisted Catholics didn’t want to support them. The private school who believed alumni adored their “athletic powerhouse” image. The nonprofit that believe lapsed donors weren’t worth chasing.

Engaging donors isn’t about being creative or having the best fundraising technology. It’s a science that’s based on gaining a deeper understanding of your stakeholders. Starting a dialogue with your donors AND your non-donors, through surveying, feedback forms and personal conversations, is the first step.



Without an ongoing dialogue with your stakeholders — not just a few top donors or board members — you’re missing out on important perceptions that shape your nonprofit’s story in the marketplace. Uncovering these perceptions is as easy as conducting surveys and even selecting key individuals from each stakeholder group for in-depth interviews.

Identifying and surveying your stakeholders should be a regular part of your planning process. This effort can help you in big-picture planning and tactical execution by collecting a treasure trove of feedback that can be mined for key messages and compelling content ideas. There’s no easier way to cultivate and steward donors than by using their own insights.



Don’t have time to analyze survey results? No one available to interview 10 people? A third party will likely ask questions you haven’t thought about and bring an objective approach to analyzing responses. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.