First in a three-part series: “Why Your Donors Aren’t Giving More”

“Most people give without expecting anything in return,” said some authority figure.

And we don’t know where they got that idea.

Everyone on the planet gives with some expectation of a return. Some of those expectations are selfish and money-oriented. Others are centered on religious traditions or a desire to do good. Still others just want to be valued and recognized.

There are many reasons. But the fact is that there is always a reason why a person gives. And attached to that reason is an expectation for some kind of return on the gift given.

Jeff and I think that most of your donors expect that some good will happen because of their giving. They have a set of passions and interests that drive where they will give and how much they give. And once they’ve given, there is an expectation they’ll hear from you about what happened.

And here is where it all goes wrong, which is why, over the next three blogs, I am writing about the three main reasons your donors aren’t giving more to your organization.

The first is about the lack of reporting on giving impact, and I am dealing with that in this blog. The second is the role the annual fund, membership, and giving societies have in suppressing donor giving, and the last blog in this series is about how the donor’s interests and passions are not being properly served, and how that reduces your donor’s giving.

Now, back to impact reporting and why your donors are not giving more to your organization. This is a fascinating topic to us because there is a direct link between donors giving more (and more frequently), and their personal knowledge that their giving is making a difference.

Note what I said here. There is a DIRECT link here. More “making a difference information” for the donor equals higher giving and more frequent giving from the donor. This is true because most donors are giving to fulfill a passion and interest they have. So, they give, and then they wait to hear about what that giving did. The whole transaction is about answering the donor’s core question: “Did I make a difference?”

The main reason a donor gives less or goes away is that they did NOT know their giving made a difference. Jeff and I have been saying this in many ways over the years. Why? Because it’s true and helpful to non-profits to accept this basic fact AND because we see so many non-profits not do it right.

In most non-profits, more time, effort, and money is spent on getting the money, versus serving the donor who gave it. I challenge you to do the math in your organization. Of your total fundraising budget, how much is spent on donor acquisition and asks (direct mail, online, telephone, etc.) and how much is spent on reporting back on the impact the donor’s gift has made? You’ll be surprised at your findings, believe me.

This is a core problem in our sector. And it’s why donor retention is at all-time lows – the most recent numbers show that only 43.6% of donors are retained. This is appalling and disgraceful. But it’s not surprising. If you give to get something done, and you don’t know if it got done, why would you continue to give? You wouldn’t.

And that is the problem.

The solution is quite simple conceptually.  And Jeff and I recognize that the execution of the solution is way more complex because of the organizational blocks to doing this right.  But you must get this work done with a system in place if you expect your donor to stay with you and give again.

At the core of the system, what you need to set up is this concept: every time a donor gives, you report on what their giving did. You tell them how their gift made a difference. Every time. In fact, you might even tell the donor that they made a difference two or three times. You can’t do it enough.

When you ramp up the frequency and quality of reporting these impact updates to the donor, you’ll see your donor retention rates go up.

You want your donor to give more. Give them the information they need. And do it promptly.  Personalize it to the donor. And tell them again and again the tremendous difference that their giving is making in those areas they’re interested in.

Try it and watch what happens. It will be amazing.

My next blog in this series addresses how the annual fund, giving societies, and membership programs can actually suppress giving. Stay tuned.


Why Your Donors Aren’t Giving More Series:

  1. Your Donor Needs to Know Their Gift Is Making a Difference (This Post)
  2. Membership Programs, Of Any Kind, Suppress Giving