Irish fundraiser Simon Scriver produces a near-constant flow of bits and pieces on his Twitter feed (@ToastFundraiser). Some relate to fundraising, some to charity doings and some simply to the hilarity of the human condition.

I was particularly struck by his recent Tweet below announcing that his five year-old understands and is acting upon a concept that most fundraisers – all of whom are considerably older than five – either fail to understand or fail to act on. Or both.


In Nonprofit Land money is clearly a form of feedback with obvious value. We usually get it because we ask.

But why don’t we treat the donor’s opinion the same way? All we have to do is ask. And, practically, when we do our chances of getting not only valuable information but additional money increases dramatically. Why? Because we have reciprocated with interest and respect.

Reciprocity is central to all human relationships. One-sided communication, as in treating a donor like an ATM and ignoring actions such as seeking the donor’s feedback — because ‘It’s a cost center’ — ignores the essential part of the relationship equation.

I’ll bet Tom’s next 10 years pay that no one reading this post has a close personal relationship that doesn’t involve the reciprocity that comes from conversations with your partner, best friend or trusted colleagues at work.

Sadly, our sector has done little to address this relationship deficit.

Just compare our nonprofit sector’s paltry efforts to those of the for-profit world. In that sector, they spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars to solicit feedback and engage in conversation with their customers.

 Over the years The Agitator has banged away at the importance of seeking donor feedback. HereHere. And here, to cite just a few posts.

In the Agitator Toolbox we’ve even made available a free — free forever — feedback widget that you can install and put to work in less than an hour. That’s far less time than it probably takes to find your webmaster.

For the life of me I can’t fathom why so many organizations choose the ‘mute’ button when it comes to listening to their donors. Most probably it’s because they have no idea what this feedback failure is costing their organization.

Here’s one stat they might consider in choosing to ignore their donors. I’m talking about hard, empirical evidence that gets to the heart of what most nonprofits struggle with: retention, commitment, increasing lifetime value.

Consider just this one finding from research involving donors to 250+ nonprofits in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. As Kevin Schulman, CEO of DonorVoice, our sister firm that conducted the research, put it:

“For every donor who registers a complaint — i.e. provides feedback — their retention increases 15 points. That’s right, 15 points, say from a 30 to 45% retention rate.

“Notice I didn’t say the organization had to do anything to fix the complaint. All it had to do is ask that the complaint be voiced by the donor.”

The notion that any nonprofit that sees this stat would not, for mere pennies or a dollar or two in staff time, start soliciting feedback is mind boggling. All at no risk, no cost.

Or perhaps they should consider hiring Simon’s 5 year-old.


P.S.  Please share what you’re doing to seek donor feedback.



This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Communications, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, DonorTrends / DonorVoice, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing.
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