9 Ways to Lose Your Donor on the First Date

9 Ways to Lose Your Donor on the First Date

According to AFP’s 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, only 19% of first time donors are retained, compared to 63% of repeat donors. The reasons for low donor retention vary as widely as there are donors, but if you can successfully avoid committing the following fundraising sins, your chances of securing fourth and fifth dates with your constituents should greatly improve.

  • 1. Make a bad first impression

    They find you online, and there isn’t even a first date after they’ve gotten a look at your website. You don’t care much about your appearance, and perhaps they shouldn’t either because you’re a good guy, but first impressions are crucial, and roughly 40% of potential donors will leave if they don’t like what they see. If your site is outdated, or lacks pictures, or if your copy is weak, you might want to rethink your website layout; these things affect your bounce rate more than you probably realize.

How to avoid: Update your website. Consider hiring a web designer to spruce things up and keep your organization in the game.

  • 2. Appear disinterested

    So you’ve got their attention, but you show little interest in them. Your site says you’re on a mission, but they don’t see how they can help, and don’t feel valued. The fact that you’re reading this article proves that isn’t true, but your donor still can’t see how much you really care.

How to avoid: You can avoid this sin by getting to know what matters to your donors and by asking about their family, work, and philanthropic passions. Also be sure to make signing up for your newsletter easy, and offer them volunteer and networking opportunities that’ll get them more involved and build their trust in your organization. In short, they need to know they are important to you.

  • 3. Seem too desperate

    Your strategic show of interest becomes a display of anxious pestering, between the stream of superfluous emails and pushy social media asks your donor receives. When you show too much interest in the donor, they might get the sense you’re insecure--a major turn off, for most healthy constituents looking for someone confident to invest in.

How to avoid: Prevent this turn-off by keeping your communications customized to the donor, and avoiding repeating your message too frequently. Yes, you need your donor, but keep things thoughtful and respectful.

  • 4. Monopolize the conversation

    There’s no back and forth here. You have something to say about your mission, but you barely seem to notice your date, who’s quickly losing interest.

How to avoid: As previously stated for Sin #2, you need to get to know your donor and their interests to gain the donor’s support and strengthen your relationship.

  • 5. Be condescending

    You use language that makes them feel out of the loop, and they get the sense you think you’re above them.

How to avoid: You can easily avoid this pitfall by keeping company jargon out of your language when communicating with your less-specialized donors. You can be professional without

  • 6. Get overly formulaic

    You do a lot of good things, but something about it feels cold and robotic, like you are conducting a social experiment or something instead of being present with them on this date.

How to avoid: By keeping your site user-friendly, using more warm, personable language when possible, and making lots of calls, you will assure your donors that your organization is indeed run by humans.

  • 7. Neglect to express appreciation

    During and after your first encounter with your potential repeat donor, don’t thank them for their time or resources, since you guys went Dutch on that community project. This will make them feel like you don’t appreciate what they have to contribute, and could care less if you saw them again.

How to avoid: Regularly share the results of your collaborative efforts with your donors, and thank them with calls, personalized thank-you emails, and appreciation luncheons. A special thank you page on your site might also be a good idea.

  • 8. Be forgettable

    You were a nice guy, an okay guy, but this person was looking to be impressed and you didn’t make the mark. Your presentation doesn’t wow them, and although your mission is sweet, it’s not inspiring.

How to avoid: Don’t settle for making a merely functional site if it is in your power to jazz it up and make an impression. Also be sure to include a clear call-to-action on your website and in your communications with constituents.

  • Don’t follow-up

    They like you, you like them, but for some reason you neglect to follow up with them, thinking they will contact you if they’re interested.

How to avoid: Don’t play games with your donors; give them a call and let them know you want that second date. As suggested in Sin #2, some follow-up emails are also a good idea, as well as connecting with them on social media. Life’s too short not to be candid.

In the end, it’s all about doing what it takes to establish trust and respect with your donors. If your supporters feel valued and have faith in your organization’s power to truly make a difference, you’re golden. And remember, even if you only manage to improve your donor retention by 1%, you should experience a boost of $1,000 to $100,000+ in additional funding, so love the one you’re with!