The Importance of Donors Feeling Seen

A few years back I was giving a $1,000 annually to an organization because the mission is important to me.  That’s a big gift for me and I had given for several years.  When my granddaughter graduated from high school, I gave the $1,000 to thank a theater school that had been very important to her.  It was meant to be for only that one year.

I sort of expected to hear from the organization that lost the $1,000 asking me why.  Knowing that it isn’t an easy call, I looked forward to sharing my story.  I never heard from the fundraiser.  It was surprising not to hear from her but also surprising how I felt.  It seemed to me the $1,000 wasn’t missed.  While I continue to give I have not returned to the $1,000.

A call to chat about what happened with my gift would have felt good to me.  Yet, it feels the gift was small and taking time to talk with donors giving small amounts wasn’t worth it.  An email would have helped.  Some communication to let me feel seen.

This experience gave me insight into why donors who give $250 and less have stopped giving at a rate of 25% in the past 10 years. 

Has philanthropy become a place for only people who give 5, 6, and 7-figure gifts?  I now have greater clarity why renewal is only 30-40%.

As a result of my experience, I have created a process for donors to join the team as partners and recognize their commitment to the mission to inspire their desire to renew.

Here are 3 key steps to renew your 2018 donors:  

  • Invite donors into a partnership 

  • Inspire, belonging, and clarify their importance

  • Focus on the mission and its value to your community

Let’s not have donors feeling unseen and peripheral.  I wanted to renew but there was no connection or sense of belonging.

So I didn’t.  


Send me your questions. Let’s begin a conversation about building community with human connections, renewing donors, and meeting financial goals.  Renewing donors create a supportive community.

Email me at penny@renewablephilanthropy.com 

Alison Castillo

Truth Design Studio, 136 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME, 04011