What You Do After You Get A Donation Is More Important Than You Think

Jun. 1, 2016

Carmel Napolitano


Philanthropists gravitate to organizations that value transparency. The process of securing a major gift doesn’t just stop once a donation is given. Today’s philanthropists want more information about how their contributions are helping you to meet the needs of your community. That may include financial reports or inviting donors to site visits so that they can see what their donation is actually doing to help advance your organization’s mission, and a cause they care deeply about.

You can be the world’s best solicitor, but if you’re only interested in raising money and haven’t mastered the art of following-up after you’ve received a gift, it will be difficult to retain donors who will contribute to the long-term success of your organization.

Cultivating trust and loyalty

In the past, donors would give to a charity and were confident that their donations would be allocated properly, but with the rise of charity fraud and cases involving the misuse of grants and funds, major gifts officers and other fundraising professionals have to work harder at cultivating trust and loyalty.

Donors are now interested in giving to organizations that can deliver results, and are transparent about the progress that they’ve made. When a philanthropist decides to fund a specific program or initiative, whether the program aims to help first-generation college students achieve success or help families who are struggling with hunger, they want to see how the work is going to be done and it’s your job to show them that the work has been done.

If you’re simply relying on how great a program can be with a donor’s contributions, and you haven’t established a process that ensures that they are updated about important developments, there is a chance that your donor might not stick around in the long run.

According to research by Adrian Sargeant, a fundraising scholar, 53 percent of donors leave organizations because of poor communication. Therefore, regular communication with new or existing donors is necessary to achieve success.

Open communication is especially important in scholarship endowments, where philanthropists will want to know what fund their money is going to be put in, and the return that their fund is getting. As a fundraising professional, you should be prepared to discuss how the organization is stewarding that gift. This may require that you reach out to finance professionals on your team so that donors understand what happens after the gift is given.

Managing relationships

Being able to relay information about donations, engage in dialogue, and report on grants are necessary steps in donor management and retention.

Organizations are looking for fundraisers who can not only secure major gifts, but are capable of developing mechanisms and systems that keep donors informed.

Sometimes fundraising professionals have to communicate with the donor’s financial advisor, accountant or estate lawyers. No matter who the point of contact is, it’s important to follow-up and follow-through.

Though organizations are under pressure to deliver services and meet the needs of their communities through charitable giving, they must be careful to not create a rat race where the finish line is all that matters. It’s not just about meeting a fundraising goal or getting someone to donate millions of dollars to your organization. It’s about managing relationships, cultivation and stewardship. When you establish systems that keep donors engaged and connected to your nonprofit, you are showing them the value in contributing to your mission and the community you serve.