Tue, September 01 2015

How to Shift Giving: New Money for Good Research Released

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Big Thoughts on Giving • Fundraising essentials •

Of all of the research I reference in webinar and conference presentations, the Money for Good studies are a longtime favorite. By delving into the true giving motivations and habits of donors, fundraisers can create more effective strategies and stronger appeals to inspire more giving. These are exactly the kind of insights that the Money for Good research offers.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the latest Money for Good report from Camber Collective, the result of Hope Consulting and SwitchPoint LLC’s merger, has been released today. Money for Good 2015 seeks to answer the question, “Why has giving been stuck at 2% GDP since the 70s?” and offers three key areas of focus to attempt to unlock $47B in U.S. charitable donations.

In particular, the research uncovers four key barriers that are likely preventing donors from giving more to your cause:

    1.  Donors want clearer communication with nonprofits: 49% of donors don’t know how nonprofits are using their money, 34% feel hassled, and 20% are unsure who benefits from the work they’re funding.

    Top Donor Concerns
    2.  Donors don’t know how much they give compared to peers: 75% of Americans think they donate more than average, yet 72% are contributing at a rate that’s below the national average.

    Charitable Giving Peer Comparison
    3.  Name recognition trumps impact: 61% prefer to give to well-known nonprofits but not necessarily the most effective organizations.

    4.  People tend to give the same way year after year: 67% of donors are loyal to primary causes while only 13% intend to give to different nonprofits and only 9% compare nonprofits before giving. Donor Loyalty and Habitual Giving

So, how do you break through these barriers? Camber Collective’s researchers have provided a deep dive on philanthropic segmentation that uncovers five distinct donor types and their attitudes, and offers ways to reframe giving appeals to better communicate to these giving profiles.

Want to dig into the research for yourself? Read the full report and learn more about the Money for Good 2015 segmentation toolkit.

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Thu, August 27 2015

6 Quick Behavioral Economics Lessons for Fundraisers

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Last month I had the chance to listen to Professor Judd Kessler of the Wharton School during the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Annual Fundraising Conference in Minneapolis. He shared insight on how behavioral economics can affect nonprofit fundraising.

Wait, what the heck is “behavioral economics”? Think about it as simply understanding the factors and situations that influence behavior and motivate people to take action. Many researchers have tested which scenarios prompt more charitable donations, many of which are illustrated in The Science of Giving.

But behavioral economics isn’t only the territory of PhDs. Professor Kessler encourages all nonprofit marketers to consider themselves to be scientists and to use simple A/B tests as experiments in their fundraising laboratory to sort out what will drive their donors to give more.

So, what are the principles that can affect fundraising for both small and large nonprofits? Here’s a quick overview of six common concepts and how you can use them in your fundraising strategy.

1.  Accountability & Recognition

What it is:  This is the idea that if someone cares what other people think of them, they may give to appear more generous, responsible, or important.
The research:  Gerber, Green & Larimer (2008) showed that voter turnout in Michigan was affected when registered voters received a message that indicated other voters would be notified of their neighbors’ voting habits.  In a different study, donors were found to give more when they were recognized as consistent donors to a fund.
How to do it: Accountability and recognition are two sides of the same coin, with recognition being usually perceived as the more positive of the two. Offering public recognition for donors can inspire donors to give to achieve and maintain the recognition, and this same attention can influence others to give to gain the same status. Give donors a special status when you feature giving opportunities on your website, in your newsletter, and in upcoming appeals.

2.  Peer Pressure

What it is:  In this case, the peer pressure comes from the simple power of the personal ask. If someone personally asks you to do something (especially in person or on the phone), you’re more likely to go along with the request to avoid embarrassment and disappointment, or to win praise.
The research:  Meer and Rosen (2009) showed that those who were called in addition to receiving a mailed solicitation were more likely to give.
How to do it: In addition to your direct mail and email appeals, make sure you are calling or meeting with key supporters to make that personal connection and encourage them to complete their gift. Bonus: you’ll likely learn more information that will help you nurture the relationship or fix issues that may have prevented future giving.

3.  Social Information/Social Proof

What it is:  This is really peer pressure of a different kind. We take our cues on what to do to fit in (and avoid guilt) by looking to social norms—what other people are doing in the same situation. 
The research:  Frey and Meier (2004) studied the decision to give to student funds at the University of Zurich.  When students were told that historically more than half of students gave to the fund, they were more likely to also contribute. Shang and Croson (2009) also showed that when donors were told what others had contributed, it affected the size of their gift. 
How to do it: In all of your fundraising materials, make it clear that others support and value your work. Some of the easiest ways to show this social proof include: donation tickers and thermometers, testimonials and quotes from current donors, and charity ratings badges based on positive reviews of your work.

4.  Gift Exchange/Reciprocity

What it is: A gift exchange happens when people feel obligated to repay gifts or return a favor, even if they know the gifts are intended to get them to take action.
The research:  Falk (2005) found that illustrated cards from street children in Bangladesh increased the relative frequency of donations.
How to do it:   Although address labels and totebags come to mind, get more creative when it comes to using the idea of reciprocity in your fundraising. Think about how your incentives or tokens of appreciation tie back to your mission and connect your donors with the end result of their gift. This could mean an exclusive tour of your facilities, a personalized note from a beneficiary, or a custom video from your volunteers. A gift exchange doesn’t need to be expensive, it just needs to be sincere.

5.  Identifiable Victim

What it is:  When our minds turn to statistics or large numbers, we tend to think about problems in abstract, and feel less connection to them. To be inspired to give, donors need to be able to connect with your ask on a personal and emotional level.
The research: Small, Loewenstein and Slovic (2007) discovered that highlighting an “identifiable victim” made donors give twice as much as when donors were presented with an abstract story or “statistical victim.” 
How to do it:  We’ve written a lot about this phenomenon on this blog, but essentially it all boils down to focusing on one person to illustrate the human impact of your issue. Tell a compelling story that donors can comprehend, and they’ll be moved to give.

6. Donor Identity

What it is: We tend to think of ourselves in a certain way or with certain ties to our social groups, community, or experiences. Therefore, when we are reminded about the identity, we are compelled to act in ways that feel consistent with it.
The research: Kessler and Milkman (2015) showed that when donors were reminded of their identity as previous donors, they were more likely to give again.
How to do it: In your fundraising appeals, invoke the idea of your donors’ identity to make your ask feel more relevant and personal. This might mean underscoring their connection to a certain neighborhood in your community, a specific alumni group, or a special factor that binds them to your cause.

Want more ideas on how to implement these concepts into your fundraising communications? Check out our guide on
How to Make the Case for Giving or enroll in The Ultimate Donation Page Course.

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Tue, August 25 2015

Ignite Action with a Powerful Data Story

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

[Editor's note: Today's post comes from Lori Jacobwith, founder of Ignited Fundraising. Lori is a fundraising culture change expert and master storyteller. Be sure to register for tomorrow's Nonprofit 911 webinar to hear Lori tell you all about how you can change your nonprofit's data story.]

As a master storyteller people often mistakenly think I only tell stories about people. The truth is, I find stories everywhere: In a glance between a client and staff, at board meetings, and even in financial data.

The question is what to do with the stories you find, especially the stories in your data?

One of the best ways to use some of the data you have is to share it in a visual display that paints a clear picture AND gets people to take actions to change the data. That might mean taking action to increase your fundraising, retain loyal donors, maintain an ample cushion of cash on hand at all times or, well, you decide.

The question then is: What actions do you want your staff, board and your community to take?

A good place to start is to create a board activity dashboard based on the actions your board has decided will make a difference.

A few metrics I like to see on a board dashboard are:

  • Attendance at board & committee meetings
  • Annual financial giving
  • Participation in donor stewardship activities: story sharing, thank you calls, guests brought to events

Creating the dashboards is the easy part. Deciding what to show on the dashboards is what takes time and focused conversation.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:

Step 1: At a retreat or during a board meeting, provide ample time for your board members to answer a few key questions. You can refer to this post 5 Questions Every Board Should Ask for some helpful questions.

Step 2: Once the board has determined the ways they will be of most value AND what they want to track, the role of staff is to create a dashboard to support their actions.

Step 3: Make sure your dashboard shows both what has happened in the past AND what actions you want to cause in the future.

Step 4: Review dashboards regularly with time to discuss activity updates and what new actions must be taken next.

Whether you use a traditional bar graph or you use something different (Blue Avocado has an excellent example), your goal is to cause new actions that support your mission and your bottom line.

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

On August 26 on the Nonprofit 911 Network for Good Webinar I’ll take you through a deeper dive into how to Change Your Data Story.

Join me to view samples of what your dashboards should look like and how best to use them to inspire action. I’ll share six of the most common mistakes when designing dashboards and some examples of what you can do differently.


A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture expert, Lori L. Jacobwith has coached thousands to raise nearly $300 million dollars from individual donors. And counting. Her proven strategies & tools teach nonprofits and their boards to share stories powerfully and easily. Lori holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Follow Lori on Twitter @LJacobwith or Facebook

Change Your Data Story Webinar
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Mon, August 17 2015

The Key to Raising More This Year

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

You might have a marketing plan, a shiny new website, and a fundraising appeal that has been triple-checked, but the key to raising more this year will come down to really knowing and understanding your donors.

When you truly understand your donors, you can communicate more effectively with the best timing, more relevant messages, and the right ask. And the only way to get smarter about these critical elements of donor communication is to be able to collect, manage, and efficiently analyze your fundraising data.

Not sure how to accomplish this? We can help.

If you want to get more out of your fundraising and donor relationships this year, tomorrow’s free Nonprofit 911 webinar is for you. My colleague Jonathan Gibbs, Network for Good’s VP of Product, will share the best practices in selecting, implementing, and getting the most out of a donor management system. Jonathan will also offer some smart tips on overcoming the common challenges nonprofits face in managing donor data. 

Register for this free session now.  (Can’t attend the live session? Go ahead and register and we’ll make sure you get the slides and the recording in your inbox shortly after the webinar.)

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Thu, August 13 2015

How to Set a #GivingTuesday Goal

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Giving Days •

Are you ready for #GivingTuesday 2015? This annual day of generosity continues to grow, and we expect this year’s event to be even bigger. According to a recent webinar poll, 30% of nonprofits are planning to participate in #GivingTuesday for the first time and 39% are planning to do more for #GivingTuesday than they did last year.

Whether you’re launching your first #GivingTuesday campaign or planning a triumphant return, the first step in planning your success is to set your sights on a clear goal for your team and supporters to rally around.

Total dollars raised is an obvious metric to measure, but it shouldn’t be your only goal, as a giving day like #GivingTuesday is a unique opportunity to boost donor acquisition, re-engagement, and retention. Here are a few other important goals that you may want to work into your plan:

  • Number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Number of volunteers/hours (if you are including an activity)
  • Number of recurring donors
  • % Participation among key groups – like staff, board, alumni, clients

Think about what kind of campaign you’d like to run this year and which goals make the most sense based on your approach.

Where Do You Start? Build a Pyramid

If you ran a #GivingTuesday campaign last year, you have a benchmark you can use to make 2014 plans. If you’re in your first year, you’ll need to base your goals on what you know about your past campaigns and donors.

Another way to plan your overall donation goal by using a giving pyramid. A giving pyramid allows you to visualize and breakdown your donation goal by donor level. Creating the pyramid helps you sanity check your goal by plotting it out, rather than just guessing.

Here’s an example of a giving pyramid for #GivingTuesday:

  • Dollar goal: $8,000
  • Existing donors in your database: 1,500 donors
  • Achieving a 3% response rate: 45 donors
Donor Chart

Map out a giving pyramid using your dollar goals and your number of donors. If it feels ambitious but achievable, then it is a great place to start with a first year goal. If it seems too easy to achieve, boost the dollar amount. Too much of a stretch? Dial back.

Want to build your own #GivingTuesday donor pyramid? Download our template and input your goals, number of current donors, and expected response rate and we’ll do the calculations for you.

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