Monday, March 30, 2009

Keeping in Touch With Donors

Let's face it, you've got heavy competition out there for donor money. There are so many great causes and the donor pool is shrinking due to the times we live in. One of the most important things you can do is keep in touch with your donors. Let them know how much you appreciate their gift, let them know how their gift is being spent. Not an easy task, but Ephy Torenberg (pictured) and William Hewitt of DonorFirst, offer valuable advice on managing donor relations. Bunnie

Keeping in Touch With Donors

by Ephy Torenberg, CEO and William H. Hewitt, CMO

With nonprofit organizations struggling to maintain support levels in the wake of the financial collapse, we were reminded this week of the critical importance of donor retention by the release of the 2008 Study of High High-Worth Philanthropy sponsored by Bank of America. This analysis of attitudes and behavior among donors highlights that nearly 60% of households who stopped supporting a charitable organization attributed their decision to a lack of ‘connection’ with the charities.

The good news is that due to recent and dramatic shifts in the technology supporting charitable instruments such as donor advised funds (DAFs), organizations finally have tools available that support these critical engagement and retention needs. These changes are finally enabling charities to support the type of grantee engagement, family collaboration, and use-of-funds transparency that donors have been seeking for decades.

DAFs are playing a central role in helping to manage and direct the flow of billions of dollars of social capital from philanthropic families, and at even modest adoption rates these programs stand to capture and distribute funding totaling trillions of dollars over the next decade. Encouraging this growing flow of donors and charitable capital are an exciting array of features beginning to appear in DAF programs:


The donor’s ability to collaborate with family, foundation staff, advisors and grantee organizations, all within the environment of their personal DAF account, has been missing for generations. New technology enables donors to create an unlimited number of these mini-communities, with each focusing on a particular interest-area, grant program, or need, and ranging in size from two users to every user on a system. This powerful feature enables families to collaborate on grant initiatives, foundations to mobilize donors around cause centered events, and advisors to collaborate with multiple generations of family members.


Traditional DAF programs have failed to support feedback on use of funds, appreciation for gifts, and ongoing development efforts of the grantee. The latest DAF technology uses the grant process as an opportunity to build relationships between donors and grantees, and for the first time, supports the ability for grantees to respond back directly to the donor. Donors can focus on multi-year projects, condition future gifts to certain deliverables, participate actively with their charities, and establish new levels of engagement and collaboration with their grantees.

Multimedia Support

Charitable organizations are increasingly recognizing that it is possible to leverage photos, audio and video to help engage donors on a more personal, emotional level. In every context where a sponsoring foundation or grantee can communicate using text, the latest DAF technology supports communication using full multimedia (video and photo) formats. Grantees upload content, highlighting their efforts and populating the site with timely, relevant information.


The latest DAF programs present all of the information and functionality donors need in the form of a personalized user Dashboard. Users see which grantee groups they are subscribed to, news that is of interest to them, conversations, grant status, and account balance – across multiple charitable instruments. Each donor may be working with a development officer or advisor and the dashboard includes a prominent personal photo of key contacts making it easy for the donor to initiate contact. The dashboard puts everything a donor needs right at their fingertips.

Thanks to features like these which are helping foundations and nonprofits deliver higher levels of service than ever before, these organizations will finally be able to increase the engagement and affinity levels of their constituency, dramatically improve donor retention, and better mobilize their donor’s contributions for the right strategic causes.

The DonorFirst™ platform is a service of Crown Philanthropic Solutions, LLC

Contact Ephy or William at or 800-293-4061 x345


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