Q&A – Easy Ways to Show Your Donors More Love

How To | July 15, 2015

Countless studies have shown that donors who feel thanked, appreciated and kept in the loop on the impact of their donations to charity are more likely to give again.

And yet, that kind of donor love is one of the most often overlooked aspects of the fundraising process.

That’s why Waterloo, Ontario-based Maeve Strathy is launching The #DonorLove Rendezvous. This conference, which takes place in May 2016, will focus on putting donors at the heart of the fundraising process in order to raise more money.

We asked Maeve to tell us more about donor love, including easy ways to put it to work for your charity.

Meet Maeve Strathy


Maeve is a fundraising professional with expertise in the education sector, a focus on mid-level giving, and a passion for the donor experience. She loves enabling people to make a positive difference with their philanthropy, and she’s so passionate about it that she spends her spare time thinking about it, talking about it, and writing about it on her blog What Gives Philanthropy.

Maeve is currently spearheading The #DonorLove Rendezvous with her friend Rory Green. Email her to learn more about #DonorLove!

Q: What exactly is donor love?

A: #DonorLove is a paradigm. It’s a lens fundraisers can look through to ensure that their focus is always first and foremost on the donors. It’s similar to being donor-centric; we need donors to be at the heart of what we do as fundraisers, because without them, the organizations we raise funds for can’t do anything.

Q: Why do fundraisers need to focus more on donor love?

A: Philanthropy has changed. We no longer live in a world where people feel obligated to give. Philanthropy isn’t a duty for most people. It’s easy for us to blame people and say they aren’t as charitable as they once were, or that the millennial generation is entitled and less generous than generations past.

But the truth is that people expect more of organizations, and so they won’t just give passively, expecting nothing in return. People are skeptical and critical of charities, and that’s not a bad thing; it just means we have to work harder. It also means that our biggest issue as fundraisers isn’t finding new donors, but instead it’s retaining our existing donors. The trend is that people are giving more to fewer charities, so we need to work really hard to stay on our donors’ top five charities list. How do we do that? By showing donor love. By showing our donors that they matter to us, and that the funds they give us are enabling great, positive things to happen in the world. Donors are impacting the world, and they need to feel that love from us in order to stick around.

Q: What prevents many fundraisers from focusing on donor love?

A: Time. Being busy. Donor love takes time and effort, and more often than not fundraisers are putting out fires and focusing on urgent items, which a lot of the time are less important than other work, but more time-sensitive and so they take priority. This is understandable, but unfortunate. We need to prioritize donor love.

Q: What are some specific donor love strategies that work?

A: In my opinion, one of the most critical elements of donor love is to thank a donor for their gift as soon as possible. There’s a quote from Tom Ahern that emphasizes the truth of this:

“First-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift.”

That is huge. Thanking our donors shouldn’t be something we do when all the fires are put out and we have time for it. It should be what we do first.

Another strategy is personalization. We get messages every day from so many organizations and companies and people, and through so many different channels, so it becomes really hard to pick out what matters. What gets our attention? Something personal. If we see our name in the subject line of an email, we’re more likely to click it. If a letter comes in anything other than a #10 envelope, it will stand out when we pick up our mail. If our address is handwritten on that same envelope (my trick is to use a differently coloured pen), we’re even more likely to open it. Again, these approaches take time, but it’s time worth spending!

Q: Can you think of any charities that are doing a great job of loving their donors?

A: One of my personal favourites is the Canadian Opera Company (COC). Arts organizations have the interesting situation of having both patrons (a.k.a. audience members) and donors, which are sometimes separate and sometimes one and the same.

I’m a donor and a patron of the COC, and I get the most fantastic donor love. They’re quick to thank me and give me a real sense of the impact I’ve made. Whenever I have an issue related to my opera tickets they address it with speed and incredible customer service. There’s a private lounge I get to access at the Four Seasons Centre where they perform. And they always call me after I see a show to see what I thought and how I enjoyed it (and they never mention fundraising in that call at all).

When you’re treated right and shown donor love, you want to stick around and keep giving because it feels so good.

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