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We often speak to donors introduced to us by charities we work with. We suggest this as a great way to get honest insight into what their donors think of their cause, their communications, their way of asking for money, their point of contact at the charity, funding needs, etc. Contrary to popular belief, we get a great take up from donors, who are pleased to be ask their opinion.

We are then able to feed back to the charity the views of their donors, summarising any key points that will enable them to improve their donor contact, keep their donors happier and consequently raise more money.

There are many insights from donors that pop up time and again. One of the ones that sticks with me from lapsed donors, in particular, is that charities seem to forget what they gave their money to in the first place. This could fall under the banner of that oft-bandied around term, ‘impact’, but it is more specific than that and less onerous to get right.

The example I tend to quote is of an environmental charity who better wanted to understand why some of their best donors had stopped giving. The answer soon became clear – the charity was good at informing donors what it was doing now, what it hoped to do and what good a donation could do – what it got wrong was not reporting back to the donor on what good their particular donation had done.

You could argue that this is hard to achieve, but is it really? Major donors more often than not give restricted gifts to specific projects or areas of work. Most likely you also receive trust grants for the same projects and so have impact reporting information. Combine this with case studies and photos and bingo, you have happy donor.

In the case of this charity, all the donors wanted was a photo with a note on progress, not output and outcome data, not pages of reports and definitely not a raft of new projects to fund. Based on this feedback the charity now requests that their project staff take pictures on site and email them back to the fundraising team to forward to their best donors.

The question is; can you apply this to your charity? Can you be integrated and flexible enough to send near real-time images and news to your donors? In the age of digital a whole new spectrum of near instant donor communication is possible. If you can achieve this, then your donors will feel loved and yes, they will then be asking you what’s next, rather than waiting to be told.

Give your major donor programme a health check now

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