Fundraising can be hard, but when you focus on your donors, it gets easier.

Focusing on your donors means that everything you do is centered on them and how they see things.  focus on your donors

Put yourself in their shoes and look at your organization through your donor’s eyes.  What do you see? What’s it like visiting the website for the first time? What’s it feel like to receive your newsletter?

When you focus on your donors, it can have a dramatically positive impact on your fundraising efforts.

When your donors stop feeling like an ATM machine, and instead feel like a partner in your work, the magic begins to happen.

When a donor feels engaged, she will give more and give longer.

So where do you start to become more donor-focused?  Here are three things you can start doing this week to focus on your donors that will pay big rewards with a minimum investment of time.

1. Get good at first impressions. Think about the donor’s first impression when they call your organization, stop by your office for a visit, or make a donation online. Who do they see and talk with first (a live friendly person or automated system)?  Can they easily find their way into your parking lot and building and is the environment warm and welcoming? Is your website easy to navigate? Is their donation quickly acknowledged?  We are so familiar with our surroundings that sometimes it’s hard to think about it from a visitor or outsider’s perspective.

Your Challenge:  Critically look around and find one or two things you can improve in the next week to make a better first impression.


2. Share only relevant and interesting info. Look at your website, brochure, latest direct mail letter, and newsletter. Remember, try reading these as a donor or prospective donor and see if anything stands out to you (if you just can’t do it, ask a friend or family member to read them).  Is the content relevant?  Is it mostly dry reporting of facts and numbers and a short “state of the organization?”  Now be honest, does this excite or motivate you?  It may not be doing anything for your supporters either.  Donors want to hear stories about the lives you are changing and the impact it has on them, the community, and the world.  You must share great stories that warm their hearts or even move them to tears.  You only need one good one to share each time so they aren’t overwhelmed.  It’s okay to include a few statistics for your number crunching readers, but focus on the stories.  You need to be working closely with your program staff and volunteers to get at least one new story to share each month.

Your Challenges:  (1) After looking through your communications, make a list of at least one thing for each communication mode that you could do differently to make them more donor-focused. Then work to incorporate these ideas in the next round of your communications.  (2)  Start collecting stories monthly from staff, volunteers, and those you serve about how your organization is changing lives and making the world a better place.


3. Follow up consistently. You don’t want your organization to be like the friend or relative who is only heard from when they want something.  Remember that when someone makes a financial investment, they like to know what’s happening as a result.  They could have given to any organization and they chose you.  Too often our only communication is to ask for money and we fail to follow up and let them know what’s happened since their gift and allow them join in our celebration when there’s a success.  Following up gives you an opportunity to reach out to your donor by sending a note or letter maybe with a picture, calling, or it might be a personal visit over coffee/lunch.

Your Challenge:  Choose a donor and make a progress update contact this week to thank them for their investment in your organization. Let them know you couldn’t do it without them. Do two donors if you can.  Then repeat each week until you at least work through the list of your best donors.

Doing something innovative? We’d love to hear about it!  Leave your story in the comments below.


Thank you to Karla Kurtz for this article!