It’s not them. It’s you!

Thank you John Lepp for this guest blog rant. 

Direct mail“Our direct mail program is dead.”

“Our email open rates are horrible.”

“Our donors don’t care about monthly giving.”

“My last appeal was horrible. The response rate was horrid.”

“Donors don’t like newsletters.” 

Have you ever thought, maybe, what is wrong with your donors is… well… you?

“They just don’t seem to care.”

We have a saying around AOG Inc., that goes, “Your donors don’t stop caring. You just stop giving them reasons to care.”

It’s not them. It’s you!

If I had a dime for every time I looked at the big stack of direct mail, , that my mother-in-law (a Canadian Jane Donor) shared with me and saw pack after pack that is all about you – , I’d be a rich man indeed. See my blog about what not to do in a direct mail letter for a real life example.

  • You talk and write about how amazing you are.
  • You don’t tell a single story.
  • You ask for 15 things on your teeny 8.5 x 3.5 coupon.
  • You don’t say thanks for the previous gift.
  • Your thank you letter, (if you send one) even talks about you.
  • And on and on and on…

Boring. Predictable. Self-centered. Indifferent. Uninspired. Vanilla…

The proof is in my mother-in-laws mailbox.

  • How do you delight your donor?
  • What did you do last week to make them feel warm and fuzzy?
  • How did your last annual/gratitude report serve as confirmation that when they gave to you, they absolutely made the right decision?
  • How do you show them the many ways they make a difference?
  • When was the last time you spoke to a donor ? In person? On the phone?
  • When was the last time your hand hurt from signing your letters and adding a personal note to your appeal?
  • Whose voice does your donor hear if they read your letter?
  • When was the last time you shared something inspirational or let your donors help solve a problem?
  • How do you listen to them?
  • Why do they give to you?

When you lose your donors, it hurts. We all know that you can spend money today that will find you new insta-donorsTM* tomorrow, but then what happens?

Ask yourself – is it us?

When you take every moment and opportunity to inspire, to thank, to tell emotional stories, to be clear, to share, to be grateful – you can quickly change your donor’s thoughts on what it means TO BE A DONOR to a charity.

Every time you sit down to craft your next appeal, or discuss a new campaign or start to brainstorm content for your next donor newsletter, the first things you should think of are: How can I make sure my donor feels amazing and unique? How can I make it easy for them to help? What story(ies) can I tell that will move them to take action and what emotions do I want them to feel?

If your donors seem to be disappearing, please, please, please don’t blame it on them. It just might be you.


John Lepp is a fundraiser, designer and donor champion and partner at Agents of Good, a specialist fundraising agency based in Canada.

*insta-donorsTM:donors that you can get instantly but have no real passion for the cause. Eg: Donors acquired by high pressure sales tactics during door to door canvassing or that send in a donation because you sent them a tote bag, a t-shirt with a clever saying on it, a booklet of labels with puppies on them, a notepad with stock images of tulips, pens with your crappy logo printed on them, calendars of kittens, and… I think you get the idea.


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