Getting to Know Your Donors

Getting to know your donors is as important as knowing your cause. A nonprofit is driven by two important factors, the cause and, the source. You, therefore, must invest some time in learning about who you supporters are for the sake of your organization's sustainability.

In order to create a campaign system that benefits both the donor and the nonprofit, you have to know your donors.  It’s important to know who your donors are and why they give to your cause. Is it because they know you and you asked them for help? or is it because they’ve seen your work and they believe in your cause?

Getting to Know Your Donors

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a nonprofit is to assume that your donors will always give because of one reason or another.

Finding out why your donors give is a very simple process. It can be done face to face or by using some great online tools that we’ll talk about in this article. One sure way to find out why your donors give is to reach out to them.

Why should you spend time and energy learning about your donors instead of working for your cause?

As a nonprofit, you’ve placed yourself in the middle of the cause and the source. The cause is the problem you’re trying to solve and the source is the solution to the problem.

The Cause can be anything from humans to animals to the environment or whatever problem you’re trying to solve. The Solution can even be yourself or family if you’re funding the project by yourself or the donor community.

In other words, you’re the middleman. You go out and tell the people with money that you have a better way for them to spend their money. So since they believe and trust you, they give you their money so you can go and spend it on your cause.

So, as a nonprofit, you are the channel in which both the cause and the source depend in order to help or get help. You also have to understand that without you in the middle, the cause will not get the help and the source will not spend the money on the cause.

To answer the question why you need to know your donors, the answer is that your nonprofit depends on the donors in order to survive. Therefore it is very important for you to know why they give, when they give, what’s important to them, and what makes them keep giving.

Now that we’ve established why you need to know your donors, let’s look at some ways we can do this without spending too much money.

The only way to know your donors is by asking them and what better way to ask than feedback or survey. Surveys are a great way to collect feedback from your donors.

There are several ways to collect feedback.  Your choice will depend on how much time and money you want to spend on a survey. Others will present a technical challenge. How well do you know tech? or do you know someone that can do it for you?

My goal here is to present the easiest and most affordable ways. We’re going to talk about four major ways to collect donor feedback.

  1. Face to face
  2. Mail
  3. Email
  4. Online Surveys

Before I talk about the ways to collect feedback, I want to stress the importance of you as a nonprofit to show your work and the impact you’re making. This is the time to prepare your financial and impact reports. You want to create a detailed report to show your donors that their donations are really doing the work you preach about.

Please read another article on 10 ways to show appreciation for your donors to get some ideas on things you can do to show the impact of their donations.


Face to Face Survey Sessions

Depending on the type of donors you have, face to face feedback sessions can be very effective. This works well if you have a very small donor pool. You can choose to meet your donors one-on-one or organize some kind of an event where you meet all the donors in one place. This is great because you get to interact with everyone and there’s just something powerful about gathering that makes people to donate more. So this might be a great way to make raise more money from the donor community you already have.

Mail Surveys

Sending mail survey is the old way of doing things especially if your donors are between the ages of 24 and 45 years old. This depends on the type of donors you have. Some studies show that mail surveys still get over 70% response rate. Again this is an option for the elderly donor communities. If you decide to utilize this method, make sure that the survey is not too long and that you’re collecting the “NEED TO KNOW” only and minimize the “MAYBE GOOD TO KNOW”.

Another important thing you must not forget is to make sure the forms are well branded for easy recognition. You should also consider providing return postage envelops to make it easy for the donors to mail the surveys back.

Email Surveys

You may say that this is the easiest way to get quick feedback from your donors. It’s cheap and in many cases free if you decide to use free email services like Gmail or Yahoo etc. However, it’s really hard for you to personalize the email as these free services do not have the functionality to do so. Unless you use some plugins, you will end up sending emails one at a time. This can be time-consuming especially if you have a large donor community.

If you’re not scared to get your hands dirty and do some geeky stuff, I found this great article about how to send personalized email in Gmail using mail merge. Please check it out.

Note you want to send personalized emails for a few reasons.

  1. Your donors feel appreciated
  2. Donors don’t have to scroll through those cc emails addresses to get to the body.
  3. You’ll have a higher response rate.

Online Surveys

Online surveys are the most utilized and most effective in this digital age. They also can be the most expensive and the cheapest depending on which service you choose to use. I say most effective because the online surveys have the functionality to easily gather results and create reports without you doing any more work. The only work that is required of you is creating the survey itself. Once the results start coming in, most tools will allow you to monitor results and reports in real time.

Online Survey Tools

Man Filling Up Survey About Work Experience

Now, this is not an article about online survey tools and so I’ll just go over a few options.


If you have a website already, you can utilize free poll plugins to create and send out surveys to your donors. There’s a vast number of great free plugins you can use but you’ll need some tech knowledge or even pay someone to do it for you.

Free Online Tools.

Google forms are probably the most used. It is free and easy to learn. You may also search Youtube for some great tutorials if you learn better through videos. Google forms allow you to send to an unlimited number of recipients and you’re able to export results.

Paid Tools

The paid version of surveys is always the best because of the added functionality. If you have a huge donor community, gathering results and making sense out of them can be time-consuming and challenging.

If you need some great paid services, you can use tools such as Survey Monkey or Typeform. They’re very advanced and you can use some of the already made survey templates.

The paid versions also come with some disadvantages which include the fact that they’re expensive and that you have a get at least a one year plan. This might not help you is you do surveys once a year or so.

Other Services

If you want the functionality of a paid survey service that gives you all the advanced features you but you don’t want to pay for for the whole year, I have another option for you. Essanmedia has a one-time basic plan that allows you to create a survey of not more than 10 questions, gives you access to real-time results monitoring and reports. They also allow you to custom brand your forms with your own logo. The great thing about this service is that you don’t have to pay anyone to create the survey for you. All you do is come up with the questions and submit your email list then they do the rest. You can get all this for a one-time payment of $100.00.

To sum it all up


We’ve talked about why you need to know your donors and why that is important for your organization. We’ve also talked about ways you can send and receive feedback for free and by using some paid online services.

Remember to only include the “NEED TO KNOW” and leave out the “ WOULD BE GREAT TO KNOW” to leave the survey short and sweet.

You now have some information about how to get started. Now it’s time for you to start crafting some survey questions. I have another article about why you should be asking donors for feedback.  Check it out HERE.

Download a PDF Version of this article!


Did you like my content?

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee
Nelson Musonda

Nelson Musonda

View all posts

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Malcare WordPress Security