Guest blog post: Top 10 Donor Don’ts to consider for audience development

Today I am happy to present our first guest blogger, David Zoltan.  After seeing a few articles about treating your donors well, I thought it was time to chime in with a blog entry to highlight what not to do when relating with your donors.  Please enjoy the following blog, our first in many guest blog posts to come.

Top 10 Donor Don’ts to consider for audience development
by David Zoltan

There are many ways to tell donors you don’t care. It’s the little things that get over looked or that annoy them or that just lack that human touch that can drive a donor screaming from your organization. It’s hard to get a new donor, so keep the ones you get by treating them well.  A quick list of Donor DON’Ts for you follows.  It’s not exhaustive by any means, and I strongly encourage more Donor DON’Ts in the comments.  Let’s learn from each other and DO it right.

1. DON’T wait to say thanks. Send a personalized note within just a couple days of receiving a gift. The sooner the better. Donors notice delays.

2. DON’T contact your donors only when you want to ask them for money. Take time to tell them what their money is going for. Give them access to behind the scenes information. Give them opportunities to become involved in your activities. Simply give them gratitude.

3. DON’T forget to thank your donors more than you solicit them. Thank yous come in all shapes and sizes. An email with a note from the artistic director. An artist making a donor-exclusive video talking about the next show. Find big and small ways to say thanks uniquely and memorably.

4. DON’T treat a lower level donor to any less courtesy than a high level donor. Small donors become bigger donors over time if you treat them well. Even if they don’t, what’s small for you, might be big to them. No one wants to feel unappreciated, and these things do get noticed.

5. DON’T pressure a donor to give in a way that they don’t feel comfortable. Some donors are “high information” donors and need to read more about you. Some don’t like giving over the phone. Some only give face to face. Listen to what your potential donor is asking for, and become the facilitator for their gift in any and every way you can.

6. DON’T treat your donors like cheap billboards for your organization. Giving mugs and t-shirts and other things that let you plaster your logo all over donors cheapens their gift by definition. They gave $50, you give them a t-shirt, and that $50 gift only becomes worth that t-shirt. If you hope that they’ll show your support for you, sell them the t-shirt, and give them what donors really want for their gift. Access.

7. DON’T assume that your donors know what makes you different than everyone else doing the same kind of art. Always make your ask about the specific work you do. Generic theatre motivates few people. But if you’ve built your mission correctly, then you have a deeper artistic meaning that you’re aiming for. Explain that well, differentiate yourself, and make their gift concrete in some way in relation to that artistic mission.

8. DON’T use an impersonal form of greeting in your letters. Mail merge isn’t difficult these days. If you don’t know how to use it, get an intern who does. But “Dear Friend” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

9. DON’T throw ala carte events. There’s a big difference between having a fun silent auction with chances to win great prizes that also add to your event’s income and charging people for food or drinks when they get there. That’s just tacky, and it’s one way to make your donors feel like ATM machines instead of valuable friends of the organization.

10. DON’T keep your donors at arm’s length. Invite them to your offices, up on stage, backstage in the dressing rooms, part of the action. Never forget that while you might see these things all the time, they’re part of a different world for your donors that they feel excited to be a part of, which is why they likely give to you in the first place.

David Zoltan is the Founder of and a regular contributor for the Social Media Club and 2amt blogs.
Follow David on Twitter: @ArtsAppeal


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Filed under arts management, Audience Development, fund raising, Fundraising

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