Donors who are loyal to your cause feel a sense of allegiance, commitment and dedication. They give as generously as their means allow, they give longer and they are more likely to stretch their giving and/or leave a legacy gift to your charity. Loyalty suggests inner circle, respect, family, closeness, honesty, openness and trust.

Put simply, donors are loyal when they feel included and informed.

On the flip side, it’s worth looking at why donors fail to increase their giving or stop giving altogether. Lack of accountability in the organizations they support is one of the biggest complaints donors have. They give and give and give some more, all the while wondering, where does my money go? What does it buy? How are my donations making a difference?

Charities produce an endless stream of communications via fundraising appeals, thank you’s, newsletters, annual reports, donor updates, websites and social media. For the most part, charities don’t understand how donors can possibly feel they’re not being accountable. I regularly hear, “We sent/posted our Report to the Community last month” or “That information is in our newsletters/on our website” or “We told them (donors) already, we tell them all the time!”.

It’s not enough, and too often the reporting back/stewardship details are buried in a story about some program or lost amongst promotion for events and such.

So, what can you do to inspire donor loyalty?

Tell donors about the good things your organization was able to do because they sent you money.

Talk about the recipients of donor’s gifts – lives changed and saved. Programs funded, equipment purchased, buildings built, volunteers sent overseas – all to help change, improve or save somebody or something’s life. Boil it right down every time so that you are connecting the donor to the recipient – that story must take center stage.

Your organization is a conduit – you exist to inspire donors to give and to ensure their giving gets to where you promised it would go. Donors are not giving TO your charity, they’re giving THROUGH your charity.

This isn’t just a ‘thank you letter’ conversation, an article in your newsletter or a piece in your annual report – it should be the majority of what your organization talks about.

When you ask for money, talk about why you need it, how you promise to spend it AND talk about who you’ve helped thanks to recent donations. Be specific. Tell stories. Be real. Keep it simple. Use emotion. Seek to connect the donor with the recipient. Talk about the need or problem – the reason your charity exists. Share accomplishments, lives changed or saved.

You would think that every charity would talk about where the money goes when they say thank you, but sadly, many don’t. Do it.

Newsletters, donor reports, annual reports, social media and websites are all great ways to cultivate, inform and steward donors. Take a look at yours. Is the focus on talking about where the money goes from both a ‘needs’ and ‘accomplishments’ perspective? If not, it’s time to change.

Here are a few specific tips to help you on your way:

  • Inspiring donor loyalty is everyone’s job and everyone’s responsibility;
  • Share real stories about why your charity is asking for money and how it’s spent;
  • Include recipient stories in your materials to help donors understand where their donations go;
  • Use donor stories to inspire other donors to upgrade to monthly or stretch their giving;
  • Have a simple and solid case for support;
  • Be sincere and use every day conversational language;
  • A picture really is worth a thousand words – use them;
  • Share stories within your organization, from top to bottom, so that everyone understands that donors and recipients are why you’re there.

And here are a few websites as examples of those who are doing it right:


This post originally appeared The Hilborn.

Banner image by Daniel Zedda from Flickr via Creative Commons.