Have a cuppa with your sponsors

You work hard to get sponsors / funders on board, you shout from rooftops how great it is to have them supporting your work – but it shouldn’t, or more to the point it mustn’t end there.

Sponsors and donors are not ATMs – they support organizations because they believe in the work that they do, organizations need to understand and acknowledge this.

When a sponsor comes onboard there’s normally a big shout out about how wonderful it is to have them on board, that their commitment will help in so many ways – you add their details to your website and maybe some other collateral. All done.

No. It’s not all done, sponsors need to – actually, no they must be kept informed of what your organization is doing, how their support is helping you make a difference in the work you do. When was the last time you invited sponsors into your organization to have a look at your project – if you haven’t invited people who would be covered, you must invite them; they have a need and right to know.

Remember too that sponsors have connections that can help help your organization go further, by nurturing your sponsors they can become ambassadors for your organization, they are more likely to talk to like-minded people about the work you do, your needs and as a result you could find yourself with more people wanting to help.

If you don’t acknowledge sponsors, if you don’t invite them to see your work, if you don’t keep them updated on your work; the chances that they will stay with you and speak favourably about your work becomes less likely.

Pick up the phone and call a sponsor today and ask them to come for morning tea and see your work firsthand – remember, it is them that are helping you make a difference.

No room at the inn (for seniors)

Having spent a morning with a group of “seniors” (their word not mine) talking about ways they can help charities other than giving money on an ad-hoc basis, I got to thinking about how organisations tap into what could be a very valuable source of support.

The group I met was made up of people who have supported various causes for a number of years, but who now felt they could do a lot more than they were doing financially. After a quick round the room chat about causes these people support, or would like to support, it became very clear that although in their later years these people still have a lot of “giving” in them.

We talked about things they are passionate about, skills they may have that could be offered to organisations:

Retired accountants  – these people could offer some advice to a charity’s board on accounting issues.

Retired lawyers  – what organisation doesn’t need legal advice.

Sales people  – maybe these could offer advice in communicating with donors.

Tailors / Seamstresses – restyling of donated clothes.

Although these people have skills that you would think would be welcomed by any charity, the issue was – how do we let charities know we are here and willing to help.

A couple of the people in the room talked about how they’d contacted organisations they had been long standing supporters of offering further assistance, but they had got the impression they weren’t needed. They spoke of how willing they were to roll up their sleeve and help – but all the organisations kept mentioning was their age and how important their financial contributions are. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know their money is needed, but to suggest to people that their other skills weren’t needed – to me is hogwash.

I’m sure there are valuable ways people like this group can help, and I’m determined to find a way to get them involved.

Don’t write people off because of their age, age is only a number, the skills these and many others have are useful – we need to find ways to help people help us.

Does your organisation offer people of an older generation the opportunity to volunteer, to act as advisors based on their experience?

Charity Alignment – Avoid The Tyson Effect

Controversy abounds over Mike Tyson and his on/off visit as a motivational speaker, should or shouldn’t he be allowed into the country is a decision only Immigration can really make – sure their decision could be overruled by the Minister of Immigration, as has happened already. I’m not going to get into the legal issues, or his right or otherwise to come here. 

Instead lets look at how charities need to be mindful of how they connect with others, what background checks they do, and what checks and balances they have in place for others working with or for an organisation who might put the welcome mat out to support an event.

Tyson’s visit to speak is being organized by a promoter and it would seem that a well meaning volunteer for an organization offered the welcome mat and further offered support by way of a letter supporter his application for a visitors visa; whether they had the right to send the letter is an internal matter, and one would hope rules and systems are being looked at to prevent anything like this happening again.

Sure, some would say his (Tyson’s) visit would benefit a charity, but what needs to be looked at is ‘alignment’ – does the person have the good character, morals to be associated? Forget about whether someone has served time or been punished in some way for what they have done in the past, what needs considering is whether supporters (present and future) will continue their support long after the event has been held and the money been banked.

It would seem in this case that the letter went out by an over zealous supporter, a volunteer Trustee, it would seem that the message from the governing board that they weren’t in support of the association didn’t get passed down the chain so that all who may have responsibilities for fundraising knew where the Trust stood.

If you’re a small, or a single location organization it’s a lot easier to manage things, but when you have branches, affiliate offices elsewhere that  have their own fundraising responsibilities it’s important that a clear fundraising guideline be in place.

Without a guideline people involved in promotion and fundraising can run amok – do you want your organization to be the next to hit the headlines over an over zealous supporter agreeing to something that your organization should perhaps steer clear of? If not, then dust off your internal procedures manual, flick to your communication and fundraising section and update it. If you don’t have a guideline now is the time to be thinking of putting on together – hop to it.

Use Donor Stories

Telling stories about your organization, the cause you work with are great, but what about the “Donor Story”?

People want to know what you do, why you do it, but people also want to know why you get the support you get, why people have chosen to support you; what drives them to open their wallets and donate to help you with the work you’re doing.

When was the last time you asked supporters to share why they give to you – or is it something you haven’t thought about doing? If you haven’t done it yet, do it – get your donor stories out there.
It’s one thing for you to know who your donors are, but it’s another to tell others (if you can) who supports you and why.

Michael Rosen recently shared 8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor where he talks about a major donor sharing why he and his wife support causes.  The donor (Daniel) and his wife contribute  to a variety of nonprofit organizations and serve on a number of nonprofit boards. 

Michael shares that Daniel told his class that he believes “donors see their giving as an extension of themselves.” He indicated that the more involved he is with an organization, the more personally he’s connected, the more likely he is to donate. In addition, he said that he is motivated by the notion of “giving back.” If he, or a family member, has benefited from the services of an organization in a significant way, he’s more likely to contribute.

However, for Daniel, it’s not all about involvement and reciprocity. He needs to also have confidence in an organization’s leadership before he’ll provide a significant gift. Two of the things that help build his confidence in the leadership are:

  1. the quality of the organization’s products or services,
  2. the demonstrated efficiency with which the organization provides those products or services.

If I was to look at supporting an organization I’d want to know the same things Daniel does, I’d also like to know why others are doing what they’re doing.

Read Micheal’s full article here and think about what you could be doing to share your donor stories to grow your supporter base.

And have a look at Jeff Brook’s recent post “What donors are interested in” 

You might also like to read:

Are you telling donor stories, if so please share why you’re doing it and what impact it’s had on growing supporters.

Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

All too often we hear about donor fatigue and how organizations are suffering due to lack of cover for those using social media – is it really fatigue or is it the “ASK”.

When you hear about supporters who haven’t given, when you hear about potential donors who haven’t given – instead of labelling this ‘fatigue’ it’s wise to look at the ‘ask’ first – was the ask right, was the timing right – did you go back to regular donors who said ‘no’ and ask why?

Asking why regular donors are giving, or why you’re not getting new donors is important – it will help you remodel the way you ask, the methods available for people to give.

A company that sees a drop in sales doesn’t immediately blame the market, the economy, it will look at the offer, the staff, the ‘pitch’ – charitable organization must do this too.

Blaming external factors before looking at internal factors is a copout … harsh, yes, but unless organizations look at themselves first they have no real idea what the cause could be.

Sure, people have tightened their belts, they may have redirected where they’re giving their money … it happens, it’s a fact of life.

If your donors aren’t giving as they used to you owe it to them, and yourself to ask why.

Have you changed direction, are you doing something different, or is it the tone of your ‘ask’ that is putting people off?

Have you asked your donors lately about why they support you – this can help you gain new supporters, knowing why people give is important, likely more important than knowing why they don’t.

Don’t fall for the trap of always blaming outside influences, sure they may have an impact, but it’s important to know if it’s something you’re doing – or not doing that’s causing people not to support you.

Have you lost supporters, had trouble gaining new supporters and found a magic formulae to turn them around – would be great if you could share some thoughts on this below.

Your message, your interaction is important

The way we all communicate has an effect on people, and the words we use will have different impact, for sometime I’ve suggested to people and organisation not to use the word “just” – it’s a self put down.

Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing in a guest post on Nonprofit Marketing Guide has some other gems of advice … Top 5 Words to Avoid to Achieve Messaging Awesomeness.

Another “Every little bit helps” – this can cut right to the quick with people who give perhaps two dollars – that two dollars to them could be a lot.

Think about the words you’re using, are the creating a pleasant interaction, are they showing you as part of the community, are the inclusive?

Signed and Forgotten

You have invited supporters to give regularly, they are giving every month via direct bank transfer; but how often are you communicating with them? 

If you are giving on a regular basis to your chosen charity through direct payments, are you hearing from the organizations you are giving to?

A sad reality is that some organizations work hard to get supporters but seem to forget to keep them informed of work being done, of projects completed, and how their support has helped. 

We know the likes of World Vision and Red Cross & the likes do keep all supporters up to date with what they are doing but there are a number of smaller organizations who seem to have forgotten that they need to be doing it. 

Supporters give because they believe in the work you do, for their hard earned contribution don’t the deserve hearing what you have been doing with “their” funds? 

A regular newsletter or other update to your supporters is necessary, how else do they know what you are doing? 

There are people who give on a regular basis who may not care, they just want to give – that is fine, but the vast majority of your supporters are likely to want to know. 

Are you giving directly to a charity on a regular basis – what updates are you getting? 

When was the last time you updated all your supporters about the work you have been doing and, what you have planned for the coming month, quarter or year? 

Charities or anyone working in the community cannot just take the money, get on with the work they do and not be expected to tell supporters. 

These organizations already have to advise Government agencies, Charities Commission, IRD, their boards and others – so why not also be telling supporters. 

Your supporters want to know – tell them, do not leave it for them to have to ask – this could see them withdraw their support, can you afford for them to do that? 

Unsubscribe Requests

Do you have an opt-in email subscription for your organisation – if so how are you dealing with unsubscirbe requests? 

How you handle these can have an impact on how you’re perceived, here’s something I posted on AdageBusiness a while ago.

How long does it take to get unsubscribed? Come on, if someone wants to be unsubscribed to an e-newsletter or other offering respect their wish. Don’t make it difficult, you didn’t make it difficult for them when they wanted to subscribe, making people login to unsubscribe isn’t doing you any favours.


Not too long ago I went mad and subscribed to a range of what first looked like interesting feeds, e-newsletters and the like; but after seeing the same thing week after week being trotted out I started unsubscribing. But the amount of time it has taken to have my request to be ‘released’ is becoming a real pain. I’ve just received the 7th email from one organisation I requested to be unsubscribed from, surely after the 2nd request you would have thought they’d have gotten the message. 


If someone wants to unsubscribe – respect the request. It isn’t doing anyone any good by continuing to send info they don’t want or aren’t interested in.


Make it easy for your supporters (and yourself), have an easy to follow opt-in and opt-out process.

Are you making it easy for your supporters? Do you have a simple opt-out/unsubscribe method?

What’s working for you?