What Should You Do When You Lose a Big Donor… Panic or Double-Down?

Donors come and go. It’s a reality of the philanthropic world.

That’s why your organization needs a contingency plan to help replace revenue if one or more of your larger donors decide to decrease or remove their support. After all, storing all your financial eggs in one or two proverbial baskets is not a viable long-term strategy.

So, I suggest you follow the example set by one of our ministry partners.

This partner recently received two big blows over the course of 24 months. The organization lost a $500,000 supporter two years ago, and this past year learned that another strong donor plans to reduce support.

This is when most nonprofits are tempted to panic. But we watched this partner take a different path, and it paid off in the end. They shifted their focus from what was lost and began to double-down on supporter outreach. We helped the organization grow more intentional with their established donor relationships, and we encouraged them to connect with and solicit support from emerging donors, as well.

With direction from the Lord, this ministry partner began to share their needs with these supporters and found that many major donors appreciated the transparency. They were very interested in the ministry’s needs, and several responded favorably by increasing their financial commitment. Plus, this outreach gave the organization a chance to solidify its relationships with emerging donors and elevate some of them to high-level supporters.

In the end, it didn’t matter that many of these new donors lacked the financial capacity of the two they had lost. Together, the masses made up the difference.

Check out our partner organization’s financial standings as of June:

• # of Donors: UP 19.3%

•   $1,000-$2,499 Donors:          UP 18.4%

•   $2,500-$4,999 Donors:          UP 18.2%

•   $5,000-$24,999 Donors:        UP 27.3%

•   $25,000+ Donors:                   UP 6.7%

• Revenue: UP 1.8%

•   $1,000-$2,499 Donors:          UP 16.8%

•   $2,500-$4,999 Donors:          UP 13.8%

•   $5,000-$24,999 Donors:        UP 28.1%

•   $25,000+ Donors:                   DOWN 9.9%

Keep in mind that the ministry lost $800,000 from two donors in the last two years – but they still were only down 9.9% in one category and up everywhere else. That’s a pretty great recovery!

In summary, even when you lose a big donor or two, you can recover from the blow by doubling down on your general efforts and becoming intentional with your current mid-range and major gift donors.

So don’t panic. You can survive the loss of major donors. It just takes a little work and a lot of transparency. 


More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Why Using Listener Stories”

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Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.

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