“My donor can’t give more.” When we hear this, it is usually pure speculation on the part of the front-line fundraiser. Speculation driven by a belief that the reason the donor is giving the money in the first place is purely economic, i.e. “they can afford it” or “they need a tax deduction” or some other money-related reason.
This is so interesting to us because the act of giving money most often has nothing to do with economics or personal finances. We know this from years of experience coupled with the careful study of human behavior and giving motivations.
During this pandemic, as in recessions of the past, we have always advised our clients to stay the course on fundraising and not to reduce their efforts to provide giving opportunities to their donors. Why? Because the motivation behind most giving, regardless of the economic climate, is about caring, loving, helping, and doing the right thing. It’s not about the money.
That’s why in 2020, most of our clients averaged a 23% increase in donor giving. And this number did not include what we call the “COVID bump” – any giving that is extra and above as donors reach out to help those who are victims of the pandemic. These increases in giving were experienced even by many organizations that traditionally have trouble raising money during difficult economic times – like arts organizations or programs in the education sector.
And this trend of increased donor giving is continuing in 2021.
When you say “my donor can’t give more” or “my donor is tired of me asking them for help,” it usually means that these are beliefs of yours. They are not grounded in fact nor in the experience of those of us who know that giving is an act of kindness and sharing that transcends money.
The fact is that buried deep within every human being is a fundamental desire to do good – to see others saved from a disastrous situation, to clean up the environment that has been violated by misuse, to rescue a mother or a child from poverty, to give someone a chance in life by providing education, to eradicate a life-threatening disease, to bring joy through the arts, to save an animal that was abused – and the list goes on and on…
There’s so much good that needs to be done on the planet. All your donors know about that need. Which is why they’re with you. And they want to do something about it, which is why they’re relying on you to talk to them about the areas THEY are interested in. Which is why you cannot go down the “my donor can’t give more” track. Because, if you do, you will refrain from telling the donor about the good they can do.
Now, if you decide to stop telling your donor about the good they can do, that won’t stop them from contributing to the causes they care about. Nope. They will just take their donation elsewhere. And that will not be good for you or your organization.
This is why we encourage you to be in touch with each of your donors’ passions and interests and, from that place of knowledge, serve the donor by sharing with them how they can help.
During this pandemic, and afterwards, do not give into the temptation to hold back from sharing relevant giving opportunities with your donors. Instead, embrace the fact that they want to help, even during these times, and show them how they can.
Change the “my donor can’t give more” into “my donor will give more,” and then set about asking them. But here’s the catch. When you embrace the “my donor will give more” reality, the burden shifts to you to present the donor with a giving opportunity that they are interested in. NOT something you or your executive leader or your finance team or program person has dreamed up. No. What your DONOR is interested in doing. That is what you need to offer them.
Keep all of this in mind as you plan for this fall. Be confident, bold, strategic, and sensitive to each of your donors. Now is not the time to shrink back.