How to Lose a Donor in 90 Days

Here’s the scenario.

I was a monthly donor to this nonprofit for years.

I was also giving free (and paid) but mostly free advice to the ED.

I hadn’t heard from the Executive Director personally in awhile (though I had gotten the nonprofit’s enewsletters).

I got solicited by another nonprofit, so I decided to stop giving to them and give my money somewhere else.

I emailed the nonprofit’s Development Manager telling him to stop charging my card.

The Development Manager said of course! And processed my request.

The Executive Director responded with an email ending our friendship.

wrote a blog post (not naming this nonprofit) but talking about why I liked another nonprofit and a little bit about how this nonprofit hadn’t stepped up.

He wrote me an email that he was “very hurt” by that blog post and listing all the ways that they had kept in touch with me. He wanted an apology, when I was just trying to help them understand why they had lost me, and what they could do better.

There was nothing malicious in my blog post, simply what I wished had gone differently.

Why did he expect an apology from me, his monthly donor? What’s going on here?

Women are socialized to be people pleasers, to make sure everyone is happy, to be nice all the time, to do the emotional work of keeping a relationship going. None of this is right.

People like this white male ED come from this place of entitlement, they are abusing that socialization to manipulate their way into this abuse of control.

In a non-sexist world, this ED would not come after me to heap his emotional issues on me and exact an emotional toll.

Guess what.

Donors don’t owe you donations.

They don’t owe you explanations.

They can be bold or specific or vague. And if they feel like you haven’t reached out enough, then you don’t correct them and tell them they’re wrong for how they feel.

In a nutshell, when someone decides to stop being a donor, you don’t

1. Tell them they are wrong for feeling like you didn’t pay enough attention to them

2. You don’t write an email severing ties.

3. You don’t tell them how to feel.

4. You don’t argue with them about how much you reached out and how wrong they are.

5. You don’t ask them to do emotional work for you.

So, if you want to lose a donor in 90 days, here’s how you do it.

1. Send them an enewsletter once a month and call that “enough.”

2. Ask them to do things for you, for free.

3. When they tell you how they feel, you correct them and tell them they are wrong in how they feel.

4. Tell them to apologize to you when they give you feedback.

5. Act like they owe you a donation, and that they’re lucky to be donors to you.

6. Don’t send them a thank you note

7. Don’t call them to say hi

How can you know which donors want you to keep in contact?

Survey them.

Or just call them up and ask if they would like you to reach out more. Or email them. Or reach out through social media. Whichever one feels most appropriate for this donor.

Do you have any advice for how to lose a donor? Have you ever failed spectacularly to keep a donor? I’d love to hear YOUR story!

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