Breaking the Silence Around Donor’s Remorse
Donor’s remorse. It’s not talked about much among fundraising professionals and nonprofits.
Our goal is to change that.
Similar to buyer’s remorse, donor’s remorse is a very real problem that can ravage supporter relationships without mercy. Not sure how donor’s remorse applies to you?
First, let’s look at a simple online fundraising funnel from John Haydon and then talk about where donor’s remorse fits in.
This diagram aims to break down what the average funnel looks like in terms of capturing supporters and transforming them into nonprofit partners or, even better, active ambassadors.
But where does donor’s remorse begin? In the partner phase? Uh oh… there’s no more upside-down triangle left for creating an experience devoid of remorse, regret or frustration.
The Impact on Repeat Donors
You get it: someone that truly believes and supports your initiative over a longer span of time is preferable to someone who gives a single donation and then splits. In fact, monthly gifts are quickly becoming your average nonprofit’s bread and butter. Retention is a core component of growth and survival now.
That said, donor’s remorse is probably the number one thing that causes people who could be repeat donors to run for the hills immediately after giving their support. It might not happen the first time, or the second, but if it does… that’s it.
Erase Guilt-Driven Content and Obligation
Trying to find real data on donor’s remorse is almost impossible. But, we did uncover an article published in 2013 on the DonorDreams blog, entitled “Donor’s remorse is real and easily avoidable”.
In it, the author makes this statement:
“I’m not sure about you, but every time I’ve experienced donor’s remorse, it has been because I made a contribution out of a sense of obligation.”
Boom. That really says it all, doesn’t it? Yet guilt and obligation are still heavily used in the nonprofit domain. Why? If that’s you, stop right now. When people gift or give out of a sense of belief and inspiration, they’re more likely to get on board for the long haul.
We believe that you must love your donors, especially after they’ve decided to take the leap and stand shoulder to shoulder with your nonprofit.
Save Money on Support Renewal Efforts
When donor’s remorse is high, retention is low. But instead of putting efforts toward fixing the real problem, many nonprofits go about trying to renew support through various heavy-handed and spammy means.
This stuff gets expensive in the blink of an eye.
And here’s the deal: once someone has experienced donor’s remorse, it’s impossible to get them to join the ranks. When they want to give more, they’ll probably find a different way. Get it? If you want to really do something productive and useful for your nonprofit, then try taking these 5 steps instead…
Step 1: Clean Up Your Online Gifting Experience
Oftentimes, nonprofits pour the majority of their efforts into everything that happens before a supporter makes an online donation. Right? It’s probably like 80-20, with only 20% of all resources going into what happens afterwards (maybe much less).
Put yourself in the gifter’s position. In fact, make an online donation using your funnel and see for yourself what the experience is like.
- Do these people have a real concrete understanding of how their money will be used?
- Once the button’s been pushed and the money leaves their bank account, do they feel like they’ve made an impact?
- Have you demonstrated that gifting to your nonprofit is one of the best ways to solve the problem or address the issue at hand?
- Do they feel like they haven’t been asked to give enough or perhaps the other way around?
Go through each step. They make the donation, get sent to some sort of page, bells and whistles go off, etc. Realize that in terms of funnels, post-donation is as important as the funnel that takes them to the donation CTA. Crystallize it, and dump some serious love and production value into it! Let’s talk about how.
Step 2: Curate a Personalized Thank You Page
Thank You pages come a dime a dozen. Here’s the deal… they’re cliché! They’re default. They’re completely 100% expected. It’s like the feeling you get when talking to the lady behind the register at the grocery store.
“Did you find everything okay?” She mechanically asks…
Then you automatically say “Yeah” without thinking, and get this dry feeling in the pit of your stomach (as does she). No kidding, Thank You pages are of paramount importance and you don’t want them feeling like that. It should be designed not to upsell, but to basically seal the deal in terms of acquiring a repeat donor.
- They shouldn’t be just a bunch of dry formal texts. Include inspirational imagery, a conversational friendly voice, add some design value, or consider making a much more valuable video that you can embed.
- They shouldn’t give away the fact that it’s an automated environment. The communication should come across as highly personalized and feel like the page was created just for them.
- There should be absolutely zero sales prompts or pitches on this page. None. Don’t even think about it. Little else will get people to feel like they’re just another “customer” than you asking them for more.
Their donation really does matter, right? How much? Show them. Tell them. Through curating a really nice Thank You page, you’re telling this individual that they’re part of something bigger and making a difference.
Step 3: Create an Impactful Thank You Email
Again, the Thank You email initially feels exactly like the emails we receive when we purchase anything online; they’re expected. These days, a fair amount of people don’t even open them up because they’ve been trained to believe it’s nothing but automation.
It is. But, just like curating your Thank You page, you can take your Thank You email to the next level by dumping some production value into it. For the most part, you should follow the same rules as stated above:
- No full-text emails. Make sure that the text, upon first impression, comes across as an easy read. Again, personalized and intimate, but using an upbeat conversational tone.
- Embedded images, visual design and videos are welcome, but can cause issues for some people depending on which email provider they use.
- It’s fine to give them options to visit social media pages, group pages, forums or otherwise connect them with other supporters, but don’t upsell or ask for any more money in a Thank You email.
Step 4: Send a Quality Follow-Up Email
Some nonprofits wait a week, some wait a couple, while others stick to the 30-Day rule. Whatever you choose, make sure to send a follow-up email that does nothing but one thing:
Shows them the impact that their donation is having!
These emails have a huge open rate because everyone wants to see the difference that they’re making in the world outside their own little personal bubbles. We love that! We crave it in fact.
Tell them what’s going on. Show them exactly where their money went and what it produced. That’s all you need to do.
“Hey, we wanted to stop by and thank you again for your donation. As you can see, we got the house built and the Anderson family is steadily getting back on their feet!”
Insert a picture of the family, all smiles, standing on the porch… and just like that, heartstrings are pulled in an inspirational way. You could tell them about the next step, or what’s happening next, without actually asking them for another gift.
“Where to now?” You ask.
“Onwards and upwards! We just found out the bank is choosing to foreclose on 5 more families in our area and we’re already gearing up to ensure none of them end up in a tent city. With people like you involved, their chances are shining bright!”
Step 5: Produce Results-Focused Content
What kind of a charitable giving environment are you creating with your content? If an individual supporter were on a raft, sailing the flowing river of media coming from your nonprofit, what kind of ride would it be? Scenic and serene, or like a crazy ride on raging rapids?
The most powerful content for a nonprofit is anything that demonstrates results—anything that shows supporters and everyone involved that their work, emotional investment, time and money is paying off. At ActionSprout, we spend a fair amount of time teaching our members how to use storytelling techniques to ensure all content is cohesive.
You know how you can roll up a piece of paper into a funnel to focus on one single thing?
It’s like that.
All your media should bring focus to the results-oriented storyline of your nonprofit. This is going to dramatically reduce the amount of donor remorse that you have to deal with and increase your reach and engagement. Enjoy!