How to Ask Your Donors for Feedback So They’ll Love You Even More

Have you tried asking your donors for feedback?

This is a huge new trend that smart fundraisers are spearheading. Why can this be so important?  feedback icon 3-Facebook-Survey-Tools-You-Will-Love

  • How can you send communications to them if you don’t know if they like what you are sending?
  • How can you offer “donor experiences” if you don’t know what they want?
  • How can you make sure they are happy if you don’t try to have a 2-way conversation with them?

Donor Surveys Can Tell You So Much

Consultant Jonathon Grapsas offers several smart reasons why his firm Pareto relies on donor surveys so often. His post about surveys is a Must Read.

He says that surveys can fill in important demographic information about your donors. And you can use that to develop a profile or “persona” of your typical donor – which will help you target your writing much more directly.

Surveys can also give you amazingly useful info on why your donors are motivated to give to you. What about your organization appeals to them the most? I can’t think of more valuable feedback, can you?

Try Surveying Your Donors

Many organizations are sending their donors online surveys and asking for feedback.

Why don’t you send a Survey Monkey link to your donors asking them for their thoughts.  What they say might just surprise you! But be careful how you ask!

Nancy Schwartz of the Getting Attention! Blog

Nancy Schwartz of the Getting Attention! Blog

Don’t say “our organization needs your input.”

Wow, I can’t image a better way to turn people off. Why? Because it’s “narcissistic” says marketing guru Nancy Schwartz of the blog.

Nancy received an email with this as the subject line. And she said she was really turned off “because it’s all about the organization’s needs and not about what members like me need.”

Nancy said she wished the organization had used this subject line: “Pls take 5 minutes to tell us what you need.” 

Now THAT speaks a donor’s language, invites her in to participate and makes her feel valued. Right?

(Check out Nancy’s entire post about this email survey she received and her reaction to it!)

What should you ask donors in a survey?

Many of these ideas are from Jonathon Grapsas MUST READ his advice on donor surveys!  Just think of the thing you love to know about your wonderful donors:

Demographic data:

  • Ask how old they are by asking for their birth date. People are used to filling out birth date forms and not thinking about it.  How old they are is KEY!
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their sex?
  • What is their occupation?feedback
  • What is their income level (ask if you dare!)


  • Have they volunteered?
  • Attended events? Which ones? What did they think of the events they attended?
  • Have they been involved in the past? If so how?

Why are they giving?

  • Or more graciously, you can ask them “how did they come to be a donor?”
  • Offer several reasons for them to check off,  for easier analysis.
  • And then offer a blank space for them to share other reasons why they give.

Personal experiences related to your cause:

  • This is info that donors hold dear.
  • When they share it with you – it is really important and meaningful to them.
  • And you need to acknowledge this in some way in future communications to them.

How do they like their experience as a donor?

  • Do they like and/or read your hard-copy newsletter?
  • Do they like and/or read your email newsletter?
  • Do they have an opinion about your overall fundraising communications?
  • Do they feel like they know the impact of their gifts?

Bequest information:

  • Is your organization in their will? (absolutely don’t forget this question!)survey1
  • Would they consider putting your organization in their will?
  • Would they like more information about bequest planning?

You’ve got the data, now what?

You’ve gotta plan your followup! Here’s how I’d approach it:

Major donors first -

Take your feedback data to your next major gifts team meeting. Discuss each major donor’s feedback with your team, and then strategically plan followup on an individual basis.

For example, you may find out something new and personal about one of your major donors. Or they have shared their dislike about something at your organization.

You MUST respond to this, correct? Sooner the better!

And when you do you will be deepening her connection to your cause.

Get the FOLLOWUP right.

Your entire fundraising/development team needs to come together to work out what actions are required in order to respond appropriately.

For example:

  • Some donors may send in contributions with their feedback and need to be thanked.
  • Some may request information or help from the staff (like bequest info!).
  • Some may want to volunteer.
  • Others may want to change their communications preferences.

You and your team better be ready to respond, or your donors will be disappointed.

 Here are Some More Resources on Donor Surveys: 

Mary Cahalane shares how she used the survey as an effective engagement tool. Pamela’s Grantwriting Blog.

How to develop an effective donor survey with

Sample donor survey from Jonathon Grapsas  on Sofi

Pamela Grow writes about her experiences surveying donors:

Simone Joyaux writes in the Nonprofit Quarterly about the donor survey questions in Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value by Sargeant and Jay. (Great article and the book is a fundraising classic too!)


Are YOU Surveying Your Donors?  What’s working for you?

Leave a comment and let me know!


  • Laresa Griffin

    Gail, I loved this article – thank you so much! Great advice and incredible details. This is very easy-to-use information and I plan to put it to good use next month. Thank you!

  • Heather Stewart

    Great post, Gail. More non-profits need to ask donors what they need, like and dislike if they hope for better engagement – but, as you say, equally as important is knowing how to follow that up. So non-profits need to create an entire plan around donor survey/feeback that looks at collecting and then using the information. Otherwise, they risk getting a lot of great information and not doing anything with it. Thanks for a great post – and the list of resources is good. I shall be passing this on to a few clients!

  • gailperry

    Glad to be helpful Heather! I agree that the followup to a survey is crucial. It’s a risk to ask donors for information and then not act on it.

  • gailperry

    Laresa, let us know how you do, ok?

  • Laresa Griffin

    I sure will, Gail – thank you!

  • Kathleen Gardner

    It seems to me that I should create a strategic plan BEFORE putting out the surveys, because once they come in, you should act on the feedback quickly and with a plan in mind. Use the excellent advice above to create that plan.

  • gailperry

    Kathleen, absolutely great point. Make your followup plan ahead of time! thanks for the excellent addition! Gail

  • Lisa

    No, currently we are not doing surveys. Great article to get me started.

  • Lisa S

    We have done very basic email surveys but would like to do more!