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5 Ways to Follow Up with Your Donors When They are Unresponsive

Posted: 10/16/2020

Click here to read on Amy Eisenstein

Have you ever asked for a gift, and then crickets? The would-be donor doesn't get back to you for days, weeks, or even months?

You've left messages and sent emails. You don't want to bother them, but you could really use that gift.

You're not sure what to do.

This scenario is more common than you might think. The question is, what should you do?

One important thing to remember is that fundraising isn't one size fits all. Donors are people. And people have busy lives and multiple distractions.

5 Ways to Follow Up with an Unresponsive Donor

It's entirely possible that unresponsive donors are not avoiding you, but they're genuinely busy. Simply because it's important to you doesn't mean it's important to your donor — not at the moment anyway.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to follow up with a donor.

1. Be Curious

My partner at the Capital Campaign Toolkit uses this expression a lot. Be curious about your donor. Call to find out, not about the gift, but if they are okay. If you're not after the gift, they're more likely to be responsive. Whether you call or email, be genuine in your interest in their well-being.

2. Try a New Method

If you've been leaving messages, try sending an email. If you've been emailing, send a text instead.

3. Go Old School

Your donors are likely inundated with calls, texts, and emails. Send a handwritten note to check-in and stand out. Your hand-addressed envelope will rise to the top of the pile of bills and advertisements in their mailbox.

4. It's Not You, It's Me…

This classic breakup line may apply. You and the donor may not be a great match. Find someone else at your organization who can reach out. Maybe the donor will respond better to a board member or the executive director / CEO.

5. Give it Some Time

It's entirely possible your donor is genuinely distracted with an illness or death in the family, a job loss, or other trauma. On a lighter note, they might be traveling for the season. Once you've reached out a few times in different ways, give your efforts a break for a while.

Keep Up with Cultivation and Stewardship

All the while you are trying to get in touch, be sure you are engaging in regular and ongoing cultivation and stewardship strategies.

  • Handwrite notes on newsletters
  • Provide personal updates via email
  • Send invitations to volunteer opportunities and events (virtual and in-person)
  • Ask them to serve on a committee
  • Tag them in social media posts (when appropriate)
  • Send them video clips and links to articles of interest

Most donors who do intend to make a gift will come around when they are ready. If not, it wasn't meant to be. As disappointing as this is, it's best to move on to the next donor.

Bottom line — Keep cultivating and stewarding. You never know!

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