Donor development: time for a check-up

Recently, Rick Dunham and Dan Sumpter joined Trent on the Cause+Effect podcast to share insight around keeping momentum in ministry. We hope this conversation equips and inspires you as you continue to set goals and cast vision for your organization.

In the midst of ministry leadership, we sometimes get so buried in the day to day that we lose sight of big-picture strategy… especially when it comes to donor development.

As the midpoint mark of 2022 gets closer, take some time today to check-up on how you’re doing.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are we traveling with our donors?

Instead of simply asking for the same things over and over, try offering vision and bring the donor with you into your story. Energize your people around what the ministry is all about and be sure to explain the value of your vision. Giving your donors tangible goals you are striving toward provides a harbor as they join you on the journey.

  • Are we taking time to celebrate?

At the end of a great year, event, or campaign, talk about what your donors made possible. Pull information together in the form of storytelling so that those who supported you can actually see themselves in the story. It’s important to take time to rest and acknowledge what God accomplished through the giving and support of your donors.

  • Are we saying “thank you?”

Do you have a “thank you” strategy? How do you express gratitude to your donors? This is so very important in making sure they feel seen and appreciated. It’s the difference between an org-centric and a donor-centric mindset. Do you write notes, make calls, create a video, or meet for coffee?

  • Are we still asking?

Be bold in the way that you ask and cast vision! Never be afraid to ask people to continue in their support after a successful year, event, or campaign. Then connect that ask to your vision in terms of where you’re headed organizationally and where God is leading you.

  • Do we have donor-specific priorities?

It’s important to prioritize where you will allocate dollars for maximum donor engagement. How is your donor list composed, and what are you doing to grow it effectively?

Stay in front of your donors, making the strongest possible case for continued support. Why? Because there is always the potential of limiting expenditures, and you don’t want the support of your organization to be either limited or eliminated.

And when it comes to donor retention, it’s much more costly to get a new donor than it is to retain a donor. 

Our research shows that in every single channel that you retain donors, they give more money.

  • Are we keeping them engaged?

For donors who give to faith-based charities, religious service attendance is the key driver to an indicator for likelihood to give. Philanthropy says, “Should I give?” And stewardship says, “Where should I give?”

So the question is, do you position your organization as a primary recipient for that donor’s generosity? Make sure you stay front and center in your communications.

  • Are we telling our story in fresh, new ways?

How can you begin to frequently and creatively tell your story in a way that engages the donor beyond just a mental acknowledgement that you exist and need money?

Whether it’s short videos or a longer written format in a direct-mail piece, there are many ways to craft a window into the impact that’s being made.

Right now, media is at an all-time high when it comes to accessibility and vibrancy. It’s on every platform. There is so much opportunity to tell a story in a very beautiful way. It’s multi-sensory, dynamic, and graphics just have a way of bringing stories to life.

  • Do our donors feel like owners or participants?

Hint: They should feel like owners. The danger comes in telling a story and celebrating in a way that sounds like this: Look, we’re significant! Big year for us! Look what we did!

Pretty soon, subliminally, you’ve cut the donor out of the story. So instead, it should sound like this: Thanks to generous friends like you…

  • Are we investing in our team?

As you’re celebrating and casting vision, create the same culture internally so that you are all in sync. Have internal celebrations, create internal visions, and get every team member into a place where they own the vision and are helping to carry the weight.

That streamlined synergy is sure to help your organization accomplish more impact for the Kingdom.


For more insight into setting aggressive priorities and ambitious goals for your organization, be sure to listen to the Cause+Effect podcast episodeWhat to Expect in the New Year.

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “The Donor Relationship: What Am I Doing Wrong?

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.