Creating the “Perfect Donor Experience”

Creating the “Perfect Donor Experience”


Did you know that a a typical non-profit will lose 50% of its donors between the first and second donation, and up to 30% per year thereafter? This staggering rate of attrition has forced many non-profits into a never-ending cycle of trying to acquire new donors – a technique that costs a lot and has little return.

It’s time to switch gears. Stop the endless cycle and start focusing on the donors you’ve already got. Show them a little love, thank them, let them know that their donations have been used as intended, and show them a return on their investment. It’s all about creating the “perfect donor experience.” If you can master it, your donors will not only stick around, but they’ll give more! It’s not rocket science, but it does take a little strategic planning. Here’s what the perfect donor experience looks like:

The Ask

The donor is presented with a clearly defined need, asked to contribute and told specifically how their donation will be used.

*It’s important that your need be defined in specific terms, so that the donor knows exactly what he will be contributing to and how the funds will be used. Let’s say you’re a food bank and the need is for a larger storage facility so that you can accept more donations for food. Define this need clearly. Give the donor the opportunity to imagine what they will be donating to. It’s all part of the experience. To get the Ask just right, see How to Write the Perfect Fundraising Letter.

The Donation

Because you have presented such a good case for support, the donor is convinced that this is a cause worth supporting and decides to donate. The donor writes out a cheque and is filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling thinking about how many people this new, larger facility will help.

The Thank You

The donor receives a thank you letter in the mail from your organization that expresses sincere appreciation for his generous contribution and reaffirms that his donation will go directly to build this new facility. The donor is feeling really good about his decision to give and is excited to hear news about the progress.

* A thank you letter should come after each and every donation. The sooner it’s sent out the better. To get it just right, see How to Write the Perfect Thank You Letter.

The Update

A month later, the donor receives your newsletter with a headline story about how the project is coming along. “Thank you to all the generous supporters…. we have now raised the necessary funds to build the new facility!”

Months down the road there is another update in the newsletter that shows the building being built with another “thanks” to all those who contributed!

A year later, the donor reads another update in your newsletter about how this new storage facility is helping your organization provide food to so many more needy people.

* Updating donors on how their donations were used is incredibly important. Updates help the donor see their donations at work. This is why they gave in the first place, so showing them what their donations made happen makes them feel good about their decision to give and also builds trust with your organization.


So that’s it – one cycle of the perfect donor experience. This is what you should be aiming to deliver with each and every one of your donors each and every time they donate. It’s pretty straight-forward, but not always easy to achieve when you’re dealing with hundreds, even thousands of donors. With the right database, however, it’s entirely possible to plan and schedule everything just right: to run strategic campaigns, to thank donors on time, to deliver planned updates.

About the Author: Sumac is part of the Silent Partner Software family, a company dedicated to providing exceptional software and services to nonprofits. With over 25 years of service, Silent Partner has helped organizations manage over 3 million donors and contacts across the US, Canada, UK, and Europe. Learn more.



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