A donor will never forget, but they may forgive

Whether wittingly or unwittingly, the result is the same – once a donor has been mistreated, the negative experience will linger in their minds, and in their chatter around the morning coffee pot, for much longer than you would wish. In the equine world, they say a horse will never forget, but it can forgive; in the donor world, the same saying applies.

While a donor will never forget, there is a slight chance—and I mean slight chance—that you can help them forgive. Overcoming a mismanaged donor’s apathy will not be easy; it will take time, patience, and commitment. Here are a few tips to help tip the change:

  • Don’t make it a single-person effort. When you have a positive relationship with a donor, it’s okay to assign a single person to maintain that relationship; however, when you have to rebuild a relationship with an intransigent donor, you must involve the organization as a whole. Be sure to include the executive director, any relevant staff, and any board members whose involvement may be helpful.
  • Make meaningful connections through various avenues. Outline specific ways you’ll connect with the donor on a regular basis. Consider in-person meetings, phone calls, hand-written notes, and regular updates regarding your organization.
  • Be consistent with your follow up. Staff and board members come and go; it’s important for the donor to recognize your organization has policies and procedures in place for consistent communication.
  • Stay with it. Your donor needs to know you’re in it for the long haul. Once you embark on the effort to win back a displeased contributor, you must be constant; I can assure you that there will be no third chances.

Donors are crucial to the fundraising success of your nonprofit. The best strategy is to ensure your contributors are treated with consistency, constancy, and respect throughout the life of the relationship. The time spent doing so is a much better investment than time spent rectifying a lost relationship.

Greg Hind