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Top 10 Tips for World-Class Donor Relations

What Donors Want From You


These tips have been adapted from Ken Burnett's wonderful little book, The Zen of Fundraising. Sometimes we forget that donors are our customers, our partners in philanthropy, and members of our organizational family. They deserve the best care that we can give them...not just to keep them coming back and giving more, but because of their generous spirits and commitment to our cause.

1. Be committed.

Coworkers discussing project on digital tablet
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

You and your staff must really like donors and be committed to providing them first-class service. If donor relations is a chore, try another career.

2. Have enough resources.

Customer service cannot be done on the cheap. Invest in proper planning and allocate sufficient resources. If you don't, you can do more harm than good.

3. Be consistent.

Good service raises expectations. Your donors need to know that they can depend on a consistently high standard of performance from you.

4. Be quick.

Don't irritate donors with delayed responses. Promptness will pay off.

5. Be personal.

Donors want to be remembered and addressed by name. Take the time to get to know them so you can become a trusted advisor.

6. Be visible.

Publicize your nonprofit's service personnel. Put their pictures up on the website and in your brochures. Let donors know that they are there to help and serve.

7. Be meticulous.

Your records should be well-kept and organized so that you can find information about a donor quickly and efficiently.

8. Be available

Make sure that donors can reach you at any time. If you can't provide 24-hour service, make sure donors can leave messages and then follow up as quickly as possible.

9. Be open and honest.

If you screw up, admit it and fix it. Never cover up. Donors will respect you and trust you for your honesty.

10. Be cheerful and helpful

Never let donors think that what you do is a chore. If it is, find another job. Donor service should be a joy and a revered activity. Remember, together you and the donor are doing something great.

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  6. Ten Steps to Improve Your Nonprofit's Donor Relations

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