Major Gifts, Uncategorized

Repairing Donor Relationships


Have you ever had a relationship go south with a donor?

Or found out that the organization has not stewarded a donor in years and they stopped giving this year?

As you probably know, it is easier to win back a lapsed donor than cultivate a new donor. So, it is worth putting in the time to repair donor relationships and renew their giving to your organization.

In my role as a consultant, I have a unique opportunity to speak confidentially one-on-one with organization’s donors about their personal view of the nonprofit, their giving. How they like to be solicited, why they give. More often not, there are 1 or 2 donors (out of 40) who have had some sort of “falling out” with the nonprofit. BUT (and this “but” is important), the donor still cares about the organization. I know this because they showed up to meet with me. They care. They want to still support the organization (even if they are not at the moment). They need to be heard and I provide a listening ear. Ultimately, the donor wants to reconcile with the organization. After many of these conversations, here is what I have learned on how to repair a relationship with a donor:


  1. Reach out to open up the dialogue with the donor. Be patient, they may not be ready right away. Have someone who is at the leadership level (staff or board) in your organization reach out and certainly not the person who may have caused the falling out.
  2. Do not make excuses. And then listen. And listen some more. Find out what is at the core of the issue. It is probably not actually the staff member or even the situation, but a deep rooted belief of the donor that was ruffled by one of your staff members or a situation. We all have out hot buttons and somehow you hit this donor’s hot button.
  3. Leave your ego at the door. You will hear things that are tough to hear and you will want to defend yourself or the organization. This conversation is not about defending the organization and proving who is “right”. This is about mending a relationship. Listen. Be sympathetic. While I encourage you to be genuine, do not be a doormat. This is not an opportunity for the donor to be rude or hurtful.
  4. As the conversation starts leading to more neutral ground, ask: how can we fix this? Then create next steps.

How have you successfully won back a donor?

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