Nonprofit Fundraising

Getting Donors to Give More

Part of the mission for any nonprofit or charitable organization is bringing in donations.  Next to the cause itself, the fundraising part is surely the most important.  But surveys have shown that for years, donations have fallen flat.  With no shortages of good causes to give to, it’s not that people are not willing to give but rather are torn of where to give.  Mounting campaigns to inspire people to open their wallets has usually been weaved around emotional pleas and heart-tugging stories, but research suggests that other less emotional ways can be surprisingly effective in winning people over.

One such way is advertising the gifts received from well-known donors.  Moreover, public acknowledgment works for even the smallest donors and not just those who are in the public eye and have tremendous wealth.  Research conducted measured the impact that well-known backers have on how other give and the results were noteworthy.

In one exercise, direct mail was sent out to a list of people who had not previously donated. In some of the mailings from the nonprofit, the Bill and Melinda gates Foundation was named as a matching benefactor. Other mailings that were sent did not reveal the names, but just mentioned that the charity had an unspecified matching donor.  Findings showed that by naming the Foundation as a benefactor it increased individual donations by nearly 22 percent.

There was also a carryover effect long after the matching period ended as people continued donating more if they recalled that the Gates Foundation was involved.  As mentioned previously, it can be difficult for people to decide on what charities to donate to, so it can help when influential people are shown to have contributed.  It lends a great deal of credibility to the charity and most people will assume that the donor has carefully vetted the organization. Ultimately it gives them more comfort and a better reason to open their wallets.

Public recognition can be a big motivation to give and for small donors too. It’s not just wealthy individuals as surveys bear this out. For example, recently, a big university phoned alumni in their efforts to solicit donations. During conversations, it was mentioned that if donors gave a certain amount, their names would be published in a newsletter that would be distributed.

With the stipulation that their names would be published, the probability of them donating was up almost 3% from 13.7% compared to 11% for individuals that weren’t told that their names would be made public.  Additionally, the average amounts pledged increased nearly 14% from $58 to $66 with the promise of name recognition.  For researchers conducting the experiment, it was rather surprising that increases could be so substantial considering the limited recognition that could be provided in a newsletter.

Nonprofits are always geared to focus on big time donors in their efforts to increase fundraising, but a similar approach to smaller donors can be just as effective. Recognition made public can be a useful tool in crafting a campaign to inspire greater giving. Tugging at the heart strings has its place, but giving credit publicly may be just as important.

Next up:  How Using Social Media Can Inspire Greater Giving

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