4 questions donors want you to answer

After giving a gift, there are 4 critical questions a donor needs a nonprofit to answer. If you don’t understand how these 4 questions work in your donor’s mind, you’ll blow the relationship and risk future gifts.

The 4 questions donors want you to answer after they’ve given a gift are:

1. Did you get my gift?
Did you get the dollars in the bank in a reasonable time? I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard horror stories of long delays in getting money in the bank. And just as bad (or maybe worse), is not getting an acknowledgment back to the donor quickly. I know you may have good reasons for the delay. And you may have gotten the money in the bank, but you have to tell the donor. You have to tell the donor quickly. If you don’t tell the donor, it didn’t happen.

2. Did you understand what my gift was for?
Did you do what the donor wanted done? Do you make it clear to the donor that you did what they wanted. Did their gift really feed people? Did they deliver clean water? Did they rescue an abused child? That’s what you asked them to do. They responded. They want to know “it” happened. Connect their gift to what you asked them to do. You know how important concreteness is for fundraising — I’ve talked about it several times from getting the words right to being specific to illustrating the “x” and even an example using maps and cupcakes.

Concreteness is equally important when you’re communicating in response to a gift. And absolutely do not let anyone fuzz-up or add vagueness to this communication. Be specific or risk the next gift.

3. Did my gift make a difference?
Remember this isn’t about your budget. Donors want to make a difference in the real world. (I know your budget is very real to you, but it’s not a big deal to the rest of us). If you had a goal of raising $XXX thousand dollars, tell the donor where things stand. Maybe like this: “We exceeded our goal of raising $100,000 which means that 307 families now have clean water.” Donors do like knowing that goals were met . . . but you have to connect with the “why.” And if you didn’t meet the goal, tell ‘em.

4. Now what?
OK, this can be tricky. You may not realize that donors have this question in their minds. You may have even had someone tell you that you should only thank a donor and not deal with the “Now what?” question. Sadly, that’s a mistake. Here’s why. Donors aren’t stupid. They know that you’re solving a big problem — you ARE dreaming big, right? If you’ve done a good job with cultivating the gift, then donors have some level of understanding of what your work is about. The “Now What” question allows you to answer by not only telling about how much more there is to do, you can help the donor reflect on how their lives are different because they’ve reached out. This moment of reflection can be fertile ground for you to plant seeds for the future.

Answer these 4 questions well and your income will grow. Plus donors will be more engaged with your work . . . and that’s always a good thing.

What do you think? How do you answer these questions? Did I miss one? We’re in this together and it’s a fun journey.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: hansvanrijnberk)

Picture of Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

3 thoughts on “4 questions donors want you to answer”

  1. Saying what the money went for can be a double-edged sword. Especially if your operational expenses are high enough that it eats into the donation money.

    I love the idea of saying what the “successes” are with the money. (i.e. 307 kids were fed….)

  2. @Brad — you’re so right about the double-edged sword thing. But that kind of reporting can be a great motivator to get NPOs to drive down those admin costs.

    And nothing’s more fun than reporting in great concreteness!

    Thanks Brad.

  3. Pingback: End of the week leftovers | Generous Matters

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