Survey Says Most Non-profits Don’t Know Their Donors

I recently read that most charities really don’t know much about their donors. Many are guilty of a very serious blunder: they only talk to their donors when they need money. They treat donors like ATM machines.

Imagine if the only time you spoke to your neighbour was when you needed to borrow sugar or a lawn mower. How often would they continue to talk to you or consider you a friend with this kind of behaviour?

Here is a helpful tip from the car industry:

New car buyers are usually sent a follow-up mailing soon after they buy a car. It often contains a survey to determine customer satisfaction or concerns. This extra effort goes a long way in retaining customers.

Now consider this:

Many non-profit organizations constantly send their donors newsletters and emails filled with the charity’s accomplishments and inside stories. Why not use this powerful medium to include a survey to give your donors a chance to air their opinions and give advice.

You could also include a survey along with the tax receipt or when acknowledging their donations. It costs very little to create a survey that will help you stay in touch with donors and ensure their voices are heard from time-to-time.

To formulate a survey, spend some time thinking about what you’d like to know. Here are some tips:

  1. Assure responders that their answers will be kept confidential. Make sure that the responses are, in fact, kept confidential.
  2. Start with questions that are easy for the respondent to agree with. Add other questions that allow the responder to see value in supporting your charity.
  3. Make most of the questions multiple choice so that they require mostly a “yes, I agree” or “no, I disagree” response; otherwise it gets hard to decipher the responder’s viewpoint.
  4. Offer opt-out options such as Undecided or Not sure at every stage in case a reader’s opinion differs from the norm.
  5. Leave room for surprises. Allow the responders space to freely express themselves with comments or suggestions. This lets you learn more about your donors and what matters to them.
    I particularly like to get answers to questions such as “Why did you first decide to support our organization?” or “What in your estimation is the most meaningful program we offer?”
  6. Balance curiosity with respect for your donors’ privacy. Questions about age or income level are sensitive issues so give them a broad range to select from: Example: ❑ 20-49 ❑ 50-60 ❑ over 60 ❑ prefer not to answer.
  7. Personalize it. Print the donor’s name and address somewhere on the survey. Ask for email and phone numbers by inserting lines and asking the donor to fill it in just in case you need clarification on some of their comments.
  8. Don’t let the font size of the survey get too small. Most charities have older donors. Don’t make them squint or not participate by using a typeface that is smaller than 11 points.
  9. Keep the questions manageable. Don’t ask more than eleven questions. Strangely, odd numbers seem to work best.
  10. Finally don’t forget to say thanks. Add a little note of appreciation from someone important in your organization. Let people know their opinions are important and this will encourage participation.

Use the results to target future communications. For instance, if you can identify what donors are particularly interested in, you could mention that in future appeals when talking to that particular group of donors. If they said how often they would like to hear from you, make sure you respect their wishes.

The benefits of a survey are:

Respondents feel like you care about their opinion, which makes them feel more closely connected to your organization. They will likely pay more attention to what your organization does in the future and be more involved.

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