At DonorDriven, we’re planning on regular guest columns from thought leaders in the non-profit realm. Our first is by Melissa S. Brown, author of 10 editions of “Giving USA.” Melissa is one of America’s foremost researchers and analysts on philanthropy. Our goal is bring you fresh perspectives backed by eye-opening statistics that will help give you a better view of the ever-changing fundraising landscape.
People give to charities for lots of different reasons. But before they give at all, they need to be asked. What is it that makes a successful request? There are three things that matter:
- A reason for people to give. What is the mission of your organization? What impact do you have? Answers to these form a “case for support.” Sometimes, however, people give simply because they know the person who asked.
- Ask people who care. Social networks add value here, because you reach the right people the first time.
- Provide a “call to action” so that people can give easily online or in the mail.
A key to long-term successful fundraising is “converting” some donors who gave because of friendship into donors who give because of mission. While success here is subjective, a reasonable goal for “conversion” is between 20 and 30 percent.
What makes a compelling case for support to express mission?
Your organization wants to bring about some positive change in the world. To raise funds, tell people about your work. Provide answers to these questions in your case for support:
- What problem or need does your organization want to address?
- Who is affected and how by the problem or need?
- What does your organization do to bring about the desired change?
- Why is this the best approach?
- How can even a small donation support your work?
- Who else supports you? (List names or provide general characteristics.)
People often have some idea about a group, but thoughtful answers to these questions can move someone to give (or to give more) to your organization. Do this on your web site and encourage your participants to address this on their donor page as well. Statistics across a wide variety of clients in DonorDrive show that 20% of event participants who customize their fundraising page generate more than 50% of the donations. Include links to your page in any other communications and encourage constituents to include links to their page.
Social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in fundraising.
DonorDrive statistics show that participants who use Twitter and Facebook tools from their donation page raise three-to-four times as much as those who don’t. Tweet or post status updates that contain snippets from your case and then link back to your web site. Seamless transitions between information platforms, (including print materials) help prospective donors move from the case to the “call to action” where they can make a gift.
Who are the right prospects?
People typically first become donors when asked by a friend or trusted advisor. It helps even more if the person asking is already a donor, or perhaps a beneficiary of the organization.
It can be great to be one of the first organizations a new donor supports, as long as you provide opportunities for continued engagement. DonorDrive numbers also bear out that across a breadth of events 4% come back and sign up as event participants for that event. Something more is needed after the personal connection is made. People say they give for “impact” (to bring about change) or to give back for benefits they’ve already received. In general, the younger the donor, the more he or she gives for impact.
Quick DonorDrive Stats
- Participants who use Twitter and Facebook tools from their donation page raise 3-4 times as much as those who don’t.
- 20% of event participants who customize their fundraising page generate more than 50% of the donations.
Experts suggest you ask the people who already support you why they give. Then use those reasons in your communications. If you can, ask people of all ages and characteristics, and develop your communications plan accordingly. You can offer one set of reasons in a medium that hits high school and college participants and another set for LinkedIn donors.
Give something back, especially information about your work.
People give when they see that money can make a difference. Successful organizations show this in consistent reports about impact and results. Share data and moving stories on every communication platform that you use.
Why do people stop giving?
People often stop giving when an organization treats its donors as a cash machine. Avoid this trap. Pay attention to courtesies. Send prompt and sincere thanks for gifts, letters, or even complaints. Respond in a timely and accurate way to inquiries. Spell names correctly. Don’t send seemingly endless requests. If someone says “do not contact me,” make sure your communications processes work so that they aren’t contacted further.
People also stop giving when their direct involvement (or that of friends or family members) ends. Life happens, so give your thanks and good wishes as they move on. Stop contacting them except perhaps once a year. To do this, you have to ask donors why they didn’t give recently. Answers to that will tell when you need to be gracious.
Technology systems help you manage information, not personal relationships. To build strong relationships, invest in people who listen to donors and think about what donors want to learn and share about their own experiences. Then use the tools of the technology to keep the conversation open and lively.
Melissa S. Brown