What I Learned From My Dog About Donor Loyalty

What I Learned From My Dog About Donor Loyalty

Donor loyalty makes your nonprofit more financially stable, cuts the costs of finding new donors, and increases your chance of receiving a major gift (massnonprofit.org). If you want donors to be loyal to you, you need to be loyal to them. My dog Charles (pictured here) has taught me a few things about loyalty. This post outlines four ways you can apply Charles’s loyalty lessons to your work with donors—and, frankly, anyone else with whom you aim to build a positive relationship!

Be Genuine and Enthusiastic

When I return home after an absence (long or short, doesn’t matter), Charles is genuinely very happy to see me and he shows his enthusiasm with excited tail wags and jumps of joy.

How this applies to donor loyalty – I’m certainly not suggesting you get wiggly the next time you see one of your donors! But your genuine warmth and enthusiasm will go a long way in developing your relationship. Give your donor a warm smile and a solid handshake. Make eye contact and ask how they’re doing. Remember something about them (family, travel, sports, garden, etc.) and bring it up in conversation. Treat your donors as you would treat your friends – because donors really are friends to your organization.

Be Appreciative

When Charles gets a treat, a belly rub or another form of attention, he shows his appreciation. He smiles (in the way that dogs do), wags his tail and generally conveys gratitude for what he’s received.

How this applies to donor loyalty – Let your donors know that you appreciate their support of your mission and work. You might send a thank-you note, recognize them in your newsletter or on your website, or tap into other creative and affordable ways to show your thanks. Don’t be shy with the appreciation – yes, it’s possible to overdo it but we’re more likely to fall short.

Find What Works

Charles employs different tactics, depending on what he’s after and from whom. He might follow me around the house with a leash in his mouth if he wants to go for a walk. If he’s after my husband for a treat, he’ll sit pretty with his head cocked to one side. Of course, Charles doesn’t always get his way but he tries to find what works. 

What I Learned From My Dog About Donor Loyalty

How this applies to donor loyalty – Present different opportunities until you find what resonates best with each donor. Some donors like to support general operations while others prefer to fund specific programs. Some donors sponsor events, others do not. Your donors want to make an impact in the world. It’s your job to match their interests and passions to the work of your organization – the programs or opportunities that make sense for them. And just as Charles doesn’t always get his way, not every prospect or donor will support your mission (and that’s okay).

Stay True

Charles doesn’t switch his allegiance from me to the next person who pats him on the head or shows up at the door with a special treat. He knows I’m in for the long haul and he isn’t fooled by what someone else might promise.

How this applies to donor loyalty – When we talk about loyalty, the bottom line is:  value your current donors. Whether they have been with you for one year or 20, they have already demonstrated an affinity for your mission. Don’t neglect your loyal donors in favor of chasing prospects who may or may not support your organization down the road. Yes, you want to spend time prospecting and adding new donors but keep in mind that the cost of acquiring new donors is always more expensive than retaining and/or upgrading current ones (nonprofit.about.com).

Side note: You can read about my other dog Maya and her lessons on cultivation and stewardship here.

How do you show loyalty to your donors? Share your ideas in the Comments box below.

If you'd like proven fundraising tips and ideas delivered every week to your inbox, sign up here. You’ll also receive my free guide, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money