Do Your Donors Feel Proud?

Do Your Donors Feel Proud?


10 August 2021


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


If you are a Board member of a land trust or any other nonprofit, this post is directed at you. If you are on staff, please send it to your Board members.


In my workshops and seminars and even in this blog (See also, Time to Get Outside!), I talk a lot about experiencing the land trust business for yourself. What’s it like to actually be there and see, touch, smell, hear, and feel. Don’t just report what someone else has told you about how things work. Go experience it yourself. Replace your ability to regurgitate third-person information with an ability to testify in first-person. Make it yours.

With that in mind, I suggest that you join the organization you support.


But don’t just stop by the office and drop off a check in or hand one to the Treasurer at a board meeting. Use the opportunity to test the systems.

Send a check in one of the standard mailing envelopes. Donate on-line. Test-drive the monthly donation program with a credit card. Or send a check in a plain envelope.

And then track what happens and report back what the experience is like from the donor perspective.

  • How long was it between when you sent the check and when you received an acknowledgement?
  • Did you get a phone call, or a special acknowledgement, perhaps because of the size of your gift or because you were a board member?
  • How long was it before you received something else from the organization – a welcome packet, a newsletter, an e-news or other electronic alert, or…?


Now compare this experience to the “customer service” you receive from other organizations you support. How does your land trust stack up? What is it doing particularly well?

Is there something someone else is doing that you could emulate?


To take this a step further, do a little research on your own and find other land trusts that you admire or who have a reputation for getting it mostly right. Send each of those organizations $50.

I suggest doing this with three organizations, and doing it every year with a different three, but the experience will be valuable even if it’s with just one.

(Note that it will not be necessary to continue giving beyond this first gift. You will receive everything they send for several years. You will be creating a minor drag on their renewal rate – all in the name of research and science!)


Now gather all the information you receive from those organizations over the course of the next year. Even include printed copies of the emails you receive. If possible, spread all this material out on a table in the order you received it, and evaluate it critically.

  • Instead of looking at each individual piece, consider the communication over the year as a whole. Does it hang together? Is there a common thread? Does it all look like it came from the same organization?
  • When and how are you being asked to do something? To engage? Is it clear what you are being asked to do?
  • How does it make you feel? Reported to? Or consulted? Like a bystander? Or like a participant? Bored? Or engaged?
  • Does it make you feel proud? Like you want to share the information with those you care about?
  • Does it give you any ideas? What elements make sense to incorporate for your land trust?


Finally, use the experience to recommend and make appropriate adjustments for your organization’s communications. Use what you learn to work toward becoming more donor-centered.


I’d love to hear about your experience. What are you doing to become more donor-centered?

What are you doing to change your own perspective from third- to first-person?


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.



Photo by Gini George courtesy of Pixabay.


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