What Donors Don’t Like

What Donors Don’t Like

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Sometimes we say and do things that turn off our donors and prospects. Here are some things that donors don’t like from fundraisers:

  • A sense of entitlement, as in, “you give to that organization, so you should be giving to ours.”
  • No big ideas. Are you just making a pitch for your “needs,” as in, “we need $50,000 to make our budget”?
  • A lack of understanding of the donor’s interests. This means we haven’t prepared for the meeting or we haven’t listened carefully to the donor.
  • No passion for the cause. It happens; especially if the CEO hasn’t established a vision or there is a lot of staff turnover among major gift officers.
  • Vagueness. What are you asking for? A gift? At what level? To achieve what?
  • No follow up. Do you put all the work into getting the meeting with a program officer at a foundation, and then never get around to submitting a proposal?
  • “Robbing the bank” mentality. Do you rush in, get the gift, and then run away without contacting the donor again? Kind of like robbing a bank?
  • Criticism of other organizations. Disparaging another organization working in the same arena looks petty and says to the donor that we haven’t developed a very strong case for support.

We all can fall into bad fundraising habits from time to time. Fortunately, we can remedy the situation with a little commitment and discipline to these fundraising tactics:

  1. Build your best case. Take the time to consider why your nonprofit is different, important and effective. Map out a dynamic vision for the future. And put your work in context of today’s political, social and economic environment.
  2. Prepare for the meeting. We all know to show up on time and wear the appropriate clothes. But we also need to read up on the donor, develop solid questions to understand his/her interests, prepare a compelling presentation and be ready to overcome objections.
  3. Follow up after the meeting. Send a handwritten note, and follow through on anything you promised the donor or prospect. Also write a brief report on the meeting and plan and schedule your next cultivation step.
  4. Build authentic relationships. Recognize that relationships develop over time. Stay interested and involved with your donors through regular communication after the meeting ends.


Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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