9 Mistakes Your Nonprofit Makes That Turn Off Big Donors

The Problem: Your nonprofit has been around for a couple months, or a couple years, but you still haven’t gotten anyone to commit a “big” cash donation. Whether this threshold for you is $5,000 or $500,000, here are the things you’re doing right now that you need to fix in order to stop scaring big donors away.

1. You’re not giving big donors the right call to action:

Too many nonprofits ask for $1, $10, $50, and $100 donations and stop there. Have a section of your website that talks about long-term goals and how bigger donations will be put to good use. Spell it out and make it obvious what you could do with more money.

2. You’re not reaching out to the right people.

Look at successful nonprofits in your field, as well as nonprofits of a similar size to yours. Scan their “donor” lists wherever you can find them and start taking note of the kinds of businesses that donate goods, services, and cash.

3. Your nonprofit’s goals aren’t known and transparent.

The illusion of moving forward is sometimes the very thing that makes others support you. State your goals at the beginning of the year, or quarterly, and publish your progress. Make fundraising an adventure for your fans. You’re the cause they care about and they should feel happy and proud to support you on your journey.

4. Your website is a disaster:

Look at your website with fresh eyes, (not with the excuses of a thousand people who “offered to help,” and built your site from scratch, across three impossible platforms. You need a website today that you can update easily, that looks good, that says you’re professional and up-to-date.

5. Your about page doesn’t underscore leadership:

People who make donations on a large scale, typically want to be sure the money will be well-spent. Make sure your about page underscores the top people in your organization, their role, and how you’re working together to accomplish the goals of your nonprofit.

6. You’re not using your board of directors for their intended purpose:

The primary job of a board member is to raise money (far beyond the initial give/get). It’s better to have a small, focused, skilled board as you grow, than invite anyone and everyone who wants to “help.” They have to be able to raise donations, network, and bring positive attention to your cause. For those who want to help with “thoughts and prayers,” but no cash or time, have a virtual (YouTube or Skype) community meeting quarterly. These people can be your fanbase, and you should inspire them, but don’t let them join the board unless they’re willing to treat it like a job.

7. You’re not empowering your board with the right material:

Have some great looking flyers made designed to (last for more than 3 months) and woo potential large-scale donors. Showcase “case studies” of your projects, and pictures of who you’ve helped and what you’ve done. Also, include a call to action that makes it easy for people to donate.

8. Your team isn’t keeping an organized, collaborative pipeline of donors:

Don’t assume that anyone can keep it all in their head. Each board member should have a list of at least 20 people (monthly) they’re working on contacting and talking to about becoming a donor. If you aren’t already using a tool like SalesForce to track, “whose talking with whom,” at least set up a shared Google Doc so everyone can see who they should be talking with, and lessen the risk of two of you reaching out to the same person.

9. You Don’t Followup:

Not following up on a donation (no matter the size) is a sign of unprofessionalism and will turn off would-be big donors. Some donors will donate a small amount first, to see if they like your nonprofit. If you don’t follow up with at least an automated response of thanks, chances are, you’ll never hear from them again.


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