Donors Make the World Go Round – And Your Actions Make Them Come Back

AFP SE WI Administrator
November 9, 2018

Donors Make the World Go Round – 
And Your Actions Make Them Come Back

Does your organization treat a first time contribution as a contribution -- or as “the initiation of a sacred bond?”

Nonprofits that take the latter point of view are on the fast track to greater donor retention and philanthropic productivity.  That’s according to Michael W. McNeely, CFRE, President and CEO of the Abbey Group, who presented “Donors Make the World Go Round” as the speaker at AFPSEWI’s October 25 educational luncheon.

McNeely suggested that everyone with donor contact in your organization sign a “Donor-Centric Pledge” to remind themselves of the importance of donor relations.  He says the pledge has proven very valuable to stimulating conversation and encouraging everyone to take responsibility for donor relationships.

McNeely’s pledge asks that signers – including your organization’s top executives and board members –pledge themselves to number of key beliefs.  Among these:

  • Donors are essential to our mission.
  • Donors are more important than donations.
  • Acquiring donors is easy; keeping them is hard.
  • A donor has enormous potential to help our mission; a donor relations program is how we tap that potential.

As McNeely’s pledge articulates how signers should respect donors, there’s a certain organizational humility woven through it.  Among its tenets: 

  • No one owes us a gift just because our mission is worthy.
  • Donors want to make a difference in the world – and our mission is just one of many means to that end.
  • Donors are investing in doing good; if they don’t see their investment prosper they will invest somewhere else.

Talking through the meaning of these beliefs becomes a great teaching tool, McNeely said.  He went on to describe how to make a donor relations program effective, sharing tips that ranged from writing an effective appeal, to thanking givers appropriately, to fielding donors’ complaints in ways that build affinity, and even how to respect donors by choosing a publication font size that respects their needs.

“We earn donors’ trust by reporting on our accomplishments,” said McNeely.  Earning that trust is not just the right thing to do but yields multiple benefits, he said.  “Donor faith leads to bigger gifts – and to unrestricted giving.” 

The assembled crowd appreciated McNeely’s obvious passion.  “Every first gift can open a door to an entirely new world for our donors.  They want to have faith in us -- and it’s our fault if they don’t.”

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