7. The Importance of Creating & Maintaining Heart-Centered Connections with Our Donors



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About this episode

I am thrilled to have Steven Shattuck on the show today. I wanted you to hear from him because he lives at the intersection of strategic data and relationship development. He really gets it, and I know he'll have lots of juicy nuggets to help us become better, even more strategic and effective fundraisers.


Our guest

Steven Shattuck, Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang, Author and Speaker.


"The organizations that break through the noise are the ones that achieve higher than average retention rates and year over year fundraising increases."  

- Steven Shattuck, Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang, Author and Speaker


A quick peek

Tammy Zonker (04:30):

Steven, tell us why donors stop supporting our organizations and what they want in order to continue giving.

Steven Shattuck (04:40):

Yeah, well, there's a lot of people looking at that, right? They're almost on an annual basis and sometimes even more frequently people like Adrian Sergeant, who you mentioned, Jen Shang, Penelope Burk, lots of people talking to donors, surveying donors, parsing through data from software programs like Bloomerang and other databases to kind of find out what it is that makes donors tick and why they do keep giving and eventually stop giving.

Steven Shattuck (05:11):

The retention rate you mentioned, yeah, around 45% since certainly FEP has been looking at it, but probably even longer. But in all of those studies where someone is asked, "Hey, why did you suddenly stop giving to these organizations? Or conversely, why do you keep giving to these organizations? What are those high performing nonprofits doing?" By and large, the answers are the same. I kind of like to separate them into two categories.

Steven Shattuck (08:52):

It's hard to sometimes break through that noise when donors, consumers are getting bombarded by all kinds of messages, in all kinds of formats, email, texts, phone calls, direct mail. It's always tough to break through, but the organizations that do break through those are the ones that achieved sort of those higher than average retention rates and year over year fundraising increases and all those great things that we want to see, but thanking and reporting really is what it boils down to.

Tammy Zonker (09:27):

You know what I struggle with? I think what's so frustrating for all of us in the sector is that there is this knowing-doing gap, right? We've known for quite some time that donors, as you said, they want to be thanked promptly, accurately. They want to understand the impact of their gift, how lives have been changed, to your point, the dogs or the animals that have been rescued and have forever homes, the pieces of land and air that are preserved now thanks to generous supporters. 

Steven Shattuck (19:25):

It's like, "Wow! A human called me to say thank you in the year 2022?" It's kind of sad and perverse that that is such a standout thing, but that's magical, and that would be a shame I think, to leave to a robot to do, because I don't think it will be as effective. It may actually be more fun than some of those other things that you're actually saving your time to do instead.


You can also download the full transcript

Download episode transcript



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Links mentioned in this episode

Bloomerang. Donor management software that nonprofits actually love to use. Bloomerang helps nonprofits deliver a better giving experience so they can raise more funds and create lasting change.

Yearly. Yearly makes it fun and easy to design your own annual, impact, and donor reports with engaging features.

Improving First-Time Donor Retention. An excel worksheet illustrating the impact of improving first-time donor retention.

2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households

Institute for Charitable Giving. The Institute for Charitable Giving was founded in 1991 by Jerold Panas and William Sturtevant for the purpose of accumulating and disseminating knowledge about major gift fundraising.


Books mentioned in this episode

Robots Make Bad Fundraisers

Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal


Connect with our guest online

Twitter / Linkedin / InstagramWebsite


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You can also connect with Tammy on Twitter and Instagram at @tammyzonker, and on LinkedIn.


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