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5 Reasons You Must Invest in Donor Service

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In the commercial world, there is no arguing that: 

  • Customer service has long been recognised as an incredibly important revenue driver. 
  • Excellent customer service vastly lowers churn rate (loss of customers). 
  • When complaints are handled well,  customers become more loyal than they were before the issue.

Why then, in the fundraising world, is donor service often the last thing we invest in? 

These things are just as true for donors as they are for customers. If you need empirical evidence check out Adrian Sargeant’s work. One of his major findings is that loyal donors give more and stay longer — and the quality of service and care you provide donors directly impact loyalty

I personally know this to be true. I started my working life in customer service, and I got my first job in the nonprofit space because of my customer service experience. I was the only person in that organisation at the time providing donor service.  

When I left five years later there were six staff dedicated to donor service and we had one of the highest retention rates in the industry. The people in the Donor Service team helped to retain donors, upgrade them, save them from cancelling, made them feel amazing about their giving, helped them understand the real impact they were having, dealt with their concerns, feedback and complaints. It was great donor care

For several years I was part of a major industry wide Mystery Shopping program in Australia and New Zealand. Over 100 charities mystery shopped, with service being one of the key things we were looking at benchmarking. 

Those that came out on top with great Donor Service also had the best retention.  

And I’ll be honest: I saw some appalling service. And there was some inspirational service. The really poor service came from organisations that had no investment in Donor Service. In fact, most of the really bad organisations did not even have a resource dedicated to Donor Service … It was database administrators answering the phones — not acceptable for good Donor Service.  

Getting the money to invest in Donor Service can be hard. Here are some reasons for investing in Donor Service that have helped many fundraisers make the business case for spending some budget on quality Donor Service: 

  1. Your Donor Service people are the face of your cause to many donors. They are the representation of your brand, your mission and your values. Are you putting your best foot forward here? 
  2. Your Donor Service people will speak to more donors than anyone else in your organisation. They are in the best position to listen to your donors – they can help you understand your donors’ needs. Have you worked with your Donor Service people to ensure that they are in a position to help build your body of understanding about your donors? 
  3. Your Donor Service can differentiate you from other causes your donors give to. When it comes to donors making the hard choices between who to keep supporting and who to stop supporting or who to consider including in their Will — poor service could be your downfall.  
  4. Your Donor Service people will save, retain, and upgrade donors. Trained Donor Service staff can save over 20% of inbound Monthly Giving cancellations. They can upgrade gift amounts to appeals. They can identify highly engaged higher value donors and provide critical insight into their motivations. They can help frustrated donors resolve their issues. All of this will happen as long as you consider the following point …  
  5. Donor Service is a skill that requires the right people, trained and supported under a clear mandate. Just like any other part of your fundraising you can assign an ROI (Return on Investment) to your Donor Service. And just like other parts of your fundraising you need a strategy, investment, and a way to monitor, measure and report back. Is Donor Service considered as important as your acquisition program?  

Related post: 6 Ways to Measure Your Fundraising to Understand Your Donors

If you are a small organisation or just starting out with fundraising, you can still invest in Donor Service. It may be part of someone’s job but ensuring it is considered as part of your Donor Care Strategy will give it visibility and help you to understand its value. So as you grow you can make evidenced cases for further investment.  

We can help you explore your Donor Service needs and opportunities through our one-to-one Coaching. To find out more and book a free call visit: www.moceanic.com/coaching-plus/ 


  • Fiona McPhee

    Fiona McPhee is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. She has over 20 years of experience developing fundraising programs and helping fundraisers, fundraising leadership and boards as a coach, consultant, and mentor. Fiona shares her extensive knowledge and tips with the Moceanic members and blog readers.

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