So if a donor doesn’t get anything in return for her gift, what do you need to do?

You need to close the loop.  In the extraordinarily helpful book Getting Things Done, author David Allen introduces the concept of “open loops.”  In short, these are:

Commitments or arrangements that are made but not yet completed. 

Now, he’s not talking about fundraising here, he’s talking about life.  But he’s absolutely talking about fundraising.

When a donor makes a gift, she makes a commitment to your organization in the form of money.  She knows she may never find out what happened because she took action and gave a gift.  But imagine her delight when an organization gets in touch with her and shares a story of a life changed because of her action!

And, at the moment she knows she made a difference, you can almost hear the loop snap shut with the satisfying sound of trust being formed.  She’s now far more likely to give that organization another gift.

But most donors are never given that delight by the organizations they donate to.  So their donors feels good for giving the gift . . . but in the back of their minds they are wondering if they really made a difference.  So – at this moment — they don’t know if giving the gift to you was a good idea.  The loop is open.

If you never tell her what she’s accomplished, that loop will always remain open.  She will likely not give another gift to your organization.

If you tell her what your organization has accomplished, maybe she’ll realize she was part of that.  And maybe it will feel to her like the loop is closed.  And maybe she’ll give you another gift.

But you can do better than that.  Tell her what she accomplished!  Close the loop with your donors!

With Major Donors, you should be able to close every single loop.  They are worth the time and attention.  For Mass donors, you need to be sending a regular stream of communications, some of which need to Report back to donors and close their loops.

And remember, each time you complete the Ask, Thank, Report cycle you close the loop, earn trust, and earn the right to Ask them again.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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