Delighting Your Donors

If you walk into a bookstore, wait a minute, there are no more bookstores left…well, if you browse through in their business section, you’ll see scores of books (actually 11,056 books) on how to create great customer service.

These books by authors including Seth Godin, Marcus Buckingham, and others pontificate relentlessly that in order for your company to stand out in this economy, you have to “Delight your Customer.” Or, in our case, “Delight your Donor.”

There are two reasons there are so many books on this subject: 1) Because it actually works to provide great customer service and delight the customer, and 2) because we’re not smart enough to get that it works, otherwise people wouldn’t continue writing about it.

Why You Need to Delight Your Donors

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat across the table of a development director and asked, “How have you delighted your donors this week?” And all I get is a look of embarrassment on their face.  

These are the same people who are preach that we need to be donor-focused, donor-centered, donor-you’re the center of my universe…yet, when it comes to actually putting that into practice, it falls to the wayside.  

Why does this happen? What keeps us from “Delighting our Donors?” I think you do want to delight your donors. You know it’s an important part of building loyalty, and you know it will eventually help bring in more revenue.

What I find more often than not is the daily inertia of your work is so demanding that it’s easy to forget.

You’re a good person trying to meet all the demands of your day. There’s a lot to do in your work. It’s not easy.

How to Delight Your Donors

So, what are some things we can do to “Delight the donor.” Well, you know that idea of making sure you have a marketing plan for each of your major donors? That’s where it starts. Look at that plan.  Now, where in that plan have you “planned” for surprises or touchpoints that the donors is NOT expecting?  

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, think about the last really good customer-service experience you had. Nine times out of 10 it was because you were “surprised or “not expecting” it.

That’s what we want to do with our donors. For example:

  • Find an article that one of your donors would be interested in and e-mail the link, or better, yet tear it out, put it in an envelope and hand address it.  Yeah, that’s even better.Send a report on one of the projects your donor is funding earlier than expected.  They will be blown away.
  • Go visit them at their workplace by dropping off a note from one of your program’s clients thanking them for supporting the organization.
  • Call and say thank you.—this simple act is so powerful, yet so underused because we’re just “too busy.”
  • Call a donor up at the last minute and take them to a ball game.  Yeah, it works.  What a great time to bond.

I literally could go on and on. In fact, I had to force myself to stop, I was having too much fun.

But, here’s the kicker: None of these ideas (and there are hundreds of them) will do any good unless you actually DO THEM!

Here is what it’s going to take. 1) Plan these unplanned surprises in your marketing plan. 2) Take a hard look at your work week and carve out at least 5 hours a week devoted to “delighting your client.” You can do it all in one day or break it up, but this is now sacred time.

I promise that if you can protect this time and actually use it to provide outrageous donor service, you will see great things happen. I know it’s hard work. But, the hard work pays off.

Now, go start planning for those surprises. It’s great fun.

I know some of you are delighting your donors. Tell us how you’re doing it. We all want to hear from you.


Jeff Schreifels

Jeff Schreifels is a Senior Partner with Veritus Group and was a Development Track speaker at the SAWA 2015 Management Conference.

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