Subscribe to CoachUp Insights!

In his book, Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made, David Gergen writes, "Polio was the dividing line in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's life - the pre-polio days and after-polio days." Before polio, FDR was a snob, shallow, and selfishly ambitious. Post-polio, he was reflective, responsive, and resourceful. His biggest problem became his most potent path to prosperity. 

Donor development leaders need help with the pressing problem of a declining donor base. Through the pandemic, donations held steady, but they know they can only sustain or scale with a growing grassroots giving base.

Let's dive into the root causes and reasons behind this decline. 

Many Non-profits, in their donor development efforts, make the same common mistakes that businesses make routinely in their sales efforts.

Three particularly stand out. 

1. "Product puking." 

In the business arena, this involves pitching a product that doesn't align with the customer's problems or needs. 

Non-profits are often guilty of promoting programs and leading with a "contribution before the customer" focus. 

2. Not understanding how you treat "internal customers" radically impacts your "external customer" donations. 

Richard Branson rightly states, "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients." 

In the January 2023 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jim Rendon writes, "Non-profits operate off their reputations, and if they're mistreating workers and the workers go public about it, that's going to impact their brand."

Overworking and underpaying employees are two common culprits of which non-profits are often guilty.  

3. Thinking good "customer service" without an intentional "customer success" structure is enough. 

Businesses understand you don't get a gold star for a product or service fulfillment. Exceptional experiences begin when the customer senses you care about their success more than your own. 

For many faith-based non-profits, this is a blind spot.

  • They are convinced their cause is so compelling that if it is communicated captivatingly, contributions will start cascading in.
  • "Customer success" sounds like a self-centered construct. Aren't donors called to contribute?

Not to be sacra religious, the rationale behind "customer success" is radically reported in the Bible.

  • God gives before He gets. 

    I John 4:10 - "This is love. He loved us long before we loved Him." 

  • God gives to us even if we don't give to Him. 

    Matthew 5:45 - "God makes the sun rise on the evil and the good. He sends rain on the just and unjust." 
Do you have an intentional "donor customer success" in place? 

CoachUp's area of expertise is helping non-profits create customer success systems and structures. This builds people and grows your grassroots donor-giving base. Your cause becomes a conduit to effective change, purpose, and meaning for your contributors. And in doing so, it drives donations. For all the right reasons.

FDR's weakness became his strength. If assessed and addressed accurately, the current "donation desert" might just be bringing you to a new (and better) place. 

If you would like to explore options to gain and retain new donors...


Schedule a complimentary conversation


Topics: Non-Profits, #donor development, #faith driven investors

Dan Whitfield

Written by Dan Whitfield

Dan is dedicated to "coaching up" leaders of growth-oriented non-profits and cause-driven organizations. His goal is to help you gain and retain new donors.