Don’t Lose Them

Keep Donors Giving
If your school lost 70% of it’s students last year, you would close the doors.   Many private schools loose 70% of donors each and every year.   Many leaders seem to be okay with that fact! Relationships with donors are crucial to the fund development: student scholarships, general operations, and building projects.  Guidestar.org has conducted research on why nonprofit organizations loose donors.  I have taken the top five, and provide suggestions on how faith-based, private, and independent schools can retain donors.
  • Your School Doesn’t Need Me // If you don’t tell donors about your school’s needs, they will think you don’t need them.   Alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents and other stakeholders need to understand why their funds are important to your school, year after year.   Segment donors and talk to them through multiple channels.  The more ways you interact with your school’s donors will increase the retention rate.
  • They Don’t Know How Their Money Was Spent // Donors desire to know how their contribution made a difference.  Remember the donor cultivation cycle – identify, research, cultivate, ask, thank and steward.   Once the donor has given their gift to your school, your leadership team needs to show how they spent the money. Invite a major donor to your office for a school tour, have a student write a hand-written note, or create a thank you video.  Upon request provide financial reports – tax statements and audits – to the donor.
  • No One Said “Thank You” // Donors want sincere appreciation and an explanation of how their donation was used.  According to research, 80% of donors say a thank you would convince them to make a second gift. For major gifts, a handwritten note should be sent within 24 hours.  School leadership and board members can call and thank the donor, and invite them to your school for an event or a tour.  For smaller gifts, a standard type-written note, with a short hand-written message on the bottom, can be sent.  You may ask them to sign-up to volunteer opportunities.  For e-gifts under $20.00, an e-mail can be sent to a person, especially if they are Generation X or Y.   Ask these young adults to follow you on your school’s social media channels.
  • Poor Communication // From the basics, spell your donor’s name correctly and promptly respond to their inquiries.  Donors, especially those who give major and mid-level gifts, should receive communication from your school a minimum of 12 times a year. Think simplicity – a birthday card, an invite to the graduation ceremony or a thank you note from a student.  Current major and prospective donors (20 – 25 individuals) should be physically in touch with your school’s leadership monthly.    Relationships must be developed with the later.   Eat lunch with them, invite them to an event (basketball game if the donor likes sports), take them on a tour, ask them to read to a class or invite them to a small intimate gathering – there are multiple ways to be in contact with donors.
  • Other Organizations Are More Deserving // Why does your school need a donor’s money?  Don’t you have tuition support or other income?  If your school only uses donor funds to fill the gap between the tuition and actual budget, without explaining the mission and vision to the donor, they will leave your organization and donate to a much worthier cause.   Know your donor and why they give to your school!  Example, your donor is passionate about helping students from needy families and donates to your school’s scholarship fund.  Keep a consistent message about academics and financial needs.   So, if you find an article in the newspaper, or in an on-line publication, about how your city’s poverty rate has increased by 10%, clip it out, attach a handwritten note and send it to them.