whisper shutterstock_329195282I’ll admit it . . . I’m guilty. I’m one of those troublesome donors who just stopped giving.

Let’s face it, donors can be fickle. With so many organizations competing for their money, it’s hard to stay focused on the causes that mean the most to them. Sometimes even a strong commitment to an organization’s mission isn’t enough to keep them loyal.

Top-notch customer service and personalized care are what donors expect. Charities that fail to respond to donor communication—comments, questions, requests to correct personal information—risk losing a donor.

Response is a two-way street

Over the years I have enjoyed giving to various charitable organizations. One local nonprofit that helps children in need was a favorite of my family’s around the holidays, when we participated in their adopt-a-family program. When I took the lead on this event for my family, the organization began sending direct mail pieces to me. The first thing I noticed was that they had spelled my first name wrong (one of my biggest pet peeves). I contacted them on multiple occasions to ask them to correct it, but never received a response. When the holidays came around the following year, my name was still misspelled. I rationalized that they were a small, local organization that probably didn’t have the staff to handle these types of requests, and I continued to support their adopt-a-family program. But eventually I became annoyed with the lack of response and stopped participating. I know, I know . . . Sarah vs. Sara is not a huge deal, but it was enough for me.

And take it from this lapsed donor, it’s bigger than personal preferences. Inattention to these things doesn’t just make a supporter feel undervalued, it also makes one wonder what other details—perhaps related to operation—the organization may be missing.    

When you talk to me, talk to ME

Beyond providing the best possible customer service, fundraisers also need to make sure that they’re creating a personalized relationship with each person who contributes to their organization. Obviously it’s not cost-effective for most nonprofits to call every donor and have a personal conversation. This is where data can be your best friend.

Personalized communication to the donor can be as simple as properly recognizing their giving history, or knowing which efforts that particular donor cares most about.

This tells a nonprofit how and when to communicate to its donors, which is vital to maintaining their loyalty. Instead of sending every donor every piece of communication produced, the data should be segmented by the donor’s interests, giving history, giving level, etc.

Sometimes even simple changes to strategy and segmentation can have a big effect on how donors respond. Donors want to feel that the steward of their gifts knows them and has been listening to them.

Lapse happens

Lastly, just because a donor has lapsed doesn’t mean a fundraiser should write them off. It is important to try to reactivate them as soon as possible. The longer they’re inactive, the more difficult it will be to bring them back. Lapsed reactivation should never be an afterthought. It should be a carefully considered strategy that includes a personalized communication effort. And, of course, once a lapsed donor is reactivated every effort must be made to prevent them from lapsing again!

Lapsing donors is a potential problem for all organizations. Any fundraiser who finds him/herself scratching their head about on why their donor loyalty is low should take a long, hard look in the mirror. Often it’s their action (or inaction) that pushes their supporter into their lapsed file. Speaking as a donor now, if you want your nonprofit to be my top charity, then you need to treat me as though I’m your top donor!

Sara Rowland is a Business Analyst at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about donor retention and reactivation, or leveraging data to nurture donor relationships, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Subscribe to our newsletter here. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.