Fri, December 06 2013

3 reasons donors won’t give—and what to do about it

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

In a recent review of U.S. Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth report on wealthy donors, The New York Times shared three key reasons why donors don’t give. While the report focused on those who have at least $3 million in investable assets, it’s not hard to imagine that these reasons are similar for donors of all income levels. Here are three reasons donors may opt not to give to your organization this December, and some ways you can address their concerns:

Donors are concerned their gift will not be used wisely.
If a donor is unsure about how their gift will be used or if there is any question that their gift will be put to good use, they’re not going to respond to your fundraising appeal. It’s critical that you let donors know the impact their gift will have. Here’s how to do it:

  • Be clear about how their gift will be used.  Give would-be donors tangible examples of how their donations will be used to address the problem you’re trying to solve. Let them know how their dollars will make an impact and be clear about the expected result. (More ideas on how to show the impact of a donation.)
  • Show your results. Highlight what results have already been made possible by other donors and continue to report on your organization’s work. If it’s not easy to find stories and photos that illustrate your progress, donors may assume you have none to share.
  • Share your ratings. Include your ratings and endorsements in your fundraising appeals, on your website, and in printed materials. These ratings reassure donors and let them know that you’re a reputable organization.
  • Make your information readily available.  Make your ratings, annual reports, program information and other financial reports easily accessible from your website. Don’t make potential donors have to hunt for the information that will help them make a decision about your cause. Be sure to also update your information on 3rd-party sites, like Charity Navigator and Guidestar, where many donors will go to research your charity.



Donors feel they have no connection to your charity.
For your appeals to be effective, you must answer the question of “Why me?”  Your need alone is not enough. You are competing with many messages and many appeals. Think about why your cause is personally meaningful to your audience. Here’s how to do it:

  • Understand why your donors give. Invite them to tell you their stories to gain insight on what motivates people to support your programs. In-person events, thank you phone calls, and online surveys are all easy ways to collect this information.
  • Segment and target appropriately. Don’t use the “spray and pray” method of marketing to win support for your cause. Segment your audience and tailor your messages to speak to each group. (Learn how you can appeal to your audience’s sense of identity.)



Donors don’t want to be on a “solicitation list.”
I’ve heard many donors of all giving levels echo this sentiment, which means we’re not doing our jobs as fundraisers and marketers. It’s our responsibility to balance our fundraising asks with updates and other messages that give back to the donor. This ultimately goes back to the first two points: by being good stewards of donors who feel a connection to your cause, you’ll be creating a community of supporters who will welcome your updates, and even your next fundraising appeal.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Have a solid stewardship plan that focuses on building long-term relationships with your supporters. Go beyond a standard thank you letter to keep your donors up to date on the impact of their gift and make donors feel like part of your community.  Pamela Grow has some great advice on how to create “wow” experiences for your donors that will make them look forward to hearing from you.
  • Set clear expectations. Let donors know what to expect once they donate. Will they hear from you monthly? Should they expect to receive a newsletter in the mail? Be upfront about your communication frequency—and then make good on your promise.
  • Put the control in the hands of the donor. Obviously, no one ever wants to have a donor opt out of their communications, but you must make it easy for them to do so if they come to that decision. By highlighting the fact that they can easily control their contact preferences, you’ll actually make donors feel more at ease about giving you their contact information.


For more tips on connecting with donors this holiday season, don’t miss out on our next free webinar. I’ll be leading a session on how to create an effective appeal for the last few weeks of the year. I’ll share some great examples and take your questions. Here are the details:

Free Webinar: Create Amazing Last-Minute Fundraising Appeals
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 1pm EST
Register Now
(Can’t attend the live session? Register anyway and we’ll send the recording of the presentation straight to your inbox!)

  • Comment: (3)   

Comments

When you discuss the concept of showing your results, it made me think that a case study showing a similar donation and what it accomplished could be useful as well as the standard focus on looking at what the organization has accomplished in general.

Posted by Steve  on  12/11  at  01:07 PM

Great tips! I agree with all of your points - especially to avoid making them feel like they are on a “solicitation list.” Many of the donors I have spoken with don’t mind regular communication but they don’t want every email or letter to ask for another donation. As you mention, they want to feel connected through updates and other communications other than those asking for more contributions.

Posted by Matt  on  12/12  at  01:54 PM

Perfectly said, every organization who runs a fundraising event must be transparent enough from them to get the trust of the givers. It’s like a business, you need to make sure that you invest in the right company.

Posted by Joelle Wyser-Pratte  on  12/12  at  06:07 PM

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