I’d like you to remember what it was like to be in junior high. I know—it’s not a time any of us want to relive, but bear with me…

Did you ever have a crush on someone that acted like you didn’t exist?  You’d see them in the hall, your eyes would light up, you’d pause, hoping they’d talk to you, compliment your outfit … ANYTHING. And then… nothing. They’d pass right by you and talk to someone else.

This scenario happened to me again recently … with a nonprofit. I showed them I liked them by donating my money and my time, and they still ignored me.

A few years ago, I decided to raise money for Organization Who Shall Not Be Named by running a marathon. I raised over $7,000! And followed up in subsequent years by making unsolicited online donations. Yet, in all this time, I never received a single communication from them—no email. no mail. nothing. I was a little sad (and pretty irritated). After all, I believed in the mission of this organization. I posted about them on social media! I gave unsolicited gifts! I ran a freaking marathon! I actually wanted them to ask me for more contributions. I wanted to read updates on their various programs and hear their success stories. I wanted to feel appreciated by my charity of choice. Unfortunately, they just kept ignoring me.

Luckily, a friend of mine works in the development office at Organization Who Shall Not Be Named, and I cried to her about my unrequited crush over a glass (or 5) of wine.  After some data sleuthing, it turns out that I was being suppressed for two reasons:

  1. I was an event participant, and therefore was suppressed from direct response solicitations.
  2. An erroneous suppression on my account meant that while I should have been receiving email newsletters and program updates, I was getting none.

This got me thinking about suppressions, which are tricky and often fraught with emotion and territorialism—much like junior high dating (“don’t touch my donors! They are MINE!!”).  These are common enough scenarios at any organization. The erroneous suppression flag should be easy to address by conducting a periodic audit of suppression flags. Simply search for donors with a recent gift who have active suppression flags and correct any issues that appear. One large, national nonprofit found nearly 2,500 gifts were made by donors with an active Do Not Solicit flag, and a large majority of those gifts were made online.  These donors should be folded back into solicitations to continue building the donor relationship and bringing in subsequent donations.

If your organization isn’t soliciting event donors, you better believe that another organization will.

Consider this, one health organization analyzed how many of their event sponsors were giving to other organizations, utilizing data in the Target Analytics National Cooperative database. They found that approximately 40% of their event sponsors were giving to other organizations, while being suppressed from solicitations to their own organization. Talk about leaving money on the table. Just like in junior high, if you don’t ask your crush to the dance, someone else will!

Start a discussion at your organization about the importance of event donors to overall fundraising goals. If possible, analyze giving metrics for event-only donors, direct response-only donors, and donors who give to both direct response and email.

Your donors tell you just how much they like you each time they donate or volunteer their time to your organization. Periodic analysis and data audits are a great way to ensure you’re telling these donors just how much you like them in return.

For more insight into how to cultivate and retain supporters, check out the Thoughtful Engagement to Retain Your Supporters ebook


Lauren McCarthy has a passion for utilizing technology, data, and efficient processes to enable effective fundraising. Throughout her career Lauren has been fortunate enough to experience fundraising through many lenses – as a fundraiser, as development systems director at a large federated organization, and through various roles related to direct marketing fundraising technology at Blackbaud. In her current role at Blackbaud, Lauren is thrilled to be on the team leading strategy for new solutions that allow organizations to harness the power of data to drive effective identification and communication with supporters. In her free time Lauren can be found running, recovering from running, or complaining about running.

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