Rethinking your Fundraising Plans

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 7th, 2012 in Thoughts & Commentary

1 comment

‘Tis the season to be giving—and, therefore, for nonprofits the season to be getting, with virtually every nonprofit that does individual giving, sending out an appeal before the end of the year.   The competition from the 1.6 million nonprofits is even more intense this time of year than the other 11 months. The tax benefit is just as good whether we give in January or December of the same year.  (Or, at least it still is; who knows if there will be a tax benefit next year.)  And yet, year after year, our mailboxes and in-boxes swell this time of year with nonprofit solicitations.

Charity Dynamics and NTEN just released a new study that you should seriously consider in designing your fundraising tactics for 2013.  It just might change what you do come next December.  The study, called “Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Study: Insights into donor engagement behavior and preferences,” has some interesting insights, including some I’ve not seen documented elsewhere.  Truthfully, there are also some, “already knew that” in there as well.  But that is okay.  Because the word “benchmark” in the title tells me that this duo is going to repeat this study on some regular and periodic basis so that we can, over time, get some trend data.  Even better!

The recent study involved 1,022 people who donated at least $25 to a nonprofit in the past 12 months and who self-reported on their giving behavior.  Only 2% of respondents were between the ages of 18-20, though age groups 21-29 and 70 or older were each 9% of the group, with the largest group (23%) being those 30-39.  The group was equally divided male and female, which is important to consider as recent reports have showed the dominance of women in making family giving decisions.   Additionally, it should be noted that the sample was well-educated, with 31% having a college degree (and 18% having some college) and 21% having a graduate degree.  Again, important given research that shows a correlation between education and giving.

While there is more in this report than I am covering, here are some of the findings that you should pay particular attention to in thinking about how best to work with your donors in 2013.

  • Respondents divided roughly into quarters in the number of charities to which they had given:  23% had given to one, 27% to two and 18% to four or more.  While to qualify for this survey a person had to give at least $25 in the last month, 75% said that they had given $100 more in total giving in the last 12 months.  Of those 30 or older, over a third (38%) reported giving $500 or more in the last 12 months, though all income groups (from under $25,000 to $200,000 and up) had people saying they gave $5,000 or more.
  • Please take note:  respondents report that an average of 67% of their total annual giving went to their favorite charity.  And your immediate question/thought:  how do we get our nonprofit to become our donors’ favorite? Looking at the breakdown of size of gift to favorite charity, there are clear giving differences:  while all income categories had donors who gave the gamut of “around $25” to $5,000 or more, the number one gift to the favorite charity for those with household incomes less than $75,000 was $25, for those with incomes between $75,000 and $149,999 it was “around $100;” and for those with incomes of $175,000 or more it was either “around $1,000” or $5,000 or more.  But there are outliers and quirks in this data.
  • Perhaps no surprise to some, age correlates with smaller gifts to a donor’s favorite nonprofit than did household income:  the majority of donors in each age bracket was more likely to make a gift to their favorite charity of “around $100” or less.
  • We all know how important it is to understand what motivates a donor–and, in particular, our donors–to give to us.  No surprises here.  In descending order of importance, respondents noted these top three:
    • belief in the organization’s mission (65%)
    • wanting to help make change happen (30%)
    • have friends or family who support the cause (20%)
    • Here is where things get really interesting.  Respondents were asked what else beyond making a direct contribution to their favorite charity they have done.  Here’s what they said:
      • 55% said they donate once or a few times a year
      • 36% said they volunteer at least once a year
      • 32% said they participate in fundraising events at least once a year
      • 29% said they fundraise on behalf of their favorite charity at least once a year

Donors also reported on other activities that they have done for their favorite charity at least a few times a year.  Again, here’s what they said:

  • 54% talked to family and friends about the charity
  • 40% encouraged friends and family to donate
  • 30% encouraged friends and family to volunteer

Age, however, was a factor in what donors were willing to do, as all “other activities” are apparently not equally appealing to all ages.  Those under 50, for example, are more likely to volunteer, while those under 40 are more likely to engage in other fundraising activities.

  • While the most common method for receiving information about their favorite charity is via mail (79%), followed by e-mail (52%) and the website (51%) (surprisingly preferred by those 50 and older), 36% prefer to learn about the organization via the website (36%), followed by emails (28%).  Only 6% prefer Facebook for learning about the organization.

The question that all this data begs is:  for those donors who see you as their favorite (do you even know who they are?), are you getting from them all that they can and will do for you?  Probably not.  So, come January, count up your end-of-the year donations, send those thank yous (21% of the respondents to the survey said that they were never  thanked–inexcusable) and rethink your donor strategy for 2013.

Get a copy of the reporter here >

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