Why people give (or don’t) to your donation request & tips for a more successful year

Like me, you probably get a LOT of donation requests this time of year. The Salvation Army bell ringer at every grocery store, the cash register change buckets, the email requests, the mailed annual appeal letters…honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming. I’d love to send money to every organization I support but that’s just not possible.

My solution to this is to file away all the emails and letters I receive and decide who I’ll donate to at the very end of the year. But last week I received a request that didn’t get filed away. In fact, I donated as soon as I saw the donation alert. So, what made this donation request different from all the other worthy appeals I receive this time of year?
Here are the top five reasons this one bypassed the file folder (and some takeaways you can use in your fundraising plan for 2018!):

It was easy for me to donate

The request I received last week was through Facebook Donate (which recently went fee-free for nonprofits) so it was super easy for me to donate. I didn’t have to go to another website, dig around to find the “donate” button, put in all my billing information, decide if I want to subscribe to a newsletter, add up numbers to prove I’m human…you get my point?! Sometimes we make it so frustrating for people to give us money.
Is your donation system easy to use? Have you ever gone through all the steps required to donate to your organization? I challenge you to follow all the steps your potential donors have to go through and if you think it’s the least bit frustrating, commit to making the process easier for your supporters in 2018.

The overall request was small

This specific campaign’s goal was $300. Since it was so small, I was able to donate an amount that I could afford AND that made a decent dent in their overall goal. If their goal had been $10,000 or $100,000 I would’ve felt like the amount I could part with immediately wouldn’t have made much of a difference. In that case, this donation request would’ve ended up in the file folder.

Now, I know you all need more than $300 and I’m sure this organization does too. But I bet there are smaller projects or resources you need that could be 100% funded through a small fundraising campaign.

The request was tangible

This donation request was for the purchase of wholesale boxes of condoms to be distributed at outreach events throughout the upcoming year. Perfect! Now I can envision exactly how my donation will help others.

Depending on your funding needs and the type of organization you work for, this may not always be possible. But I bet if you’re creative, you can think of a way to make this happen (even for general operating support!).

I’m familiar with the organization’s work

Full disclosure: I used to work for the organization so I’m very familiar with their work, BUT that was 7 years ago and I know they’re still doing great work because they publish their accomplishments on social media and through email alerts.

Are you letting your supporters and community know about all the great work you’re doing? There are a lot of great causes out there…are you standing out in the crowd? If not, your donation request might just end up in the file folder.

The request came from someone who works for the organization that I know personally

I know, I know, there’s no way you have time to get to know every single person you ask for money. But there are SO many ways you can encourage your staff and current supporters to do this.

Here are some ideas for adding a more personal touch to your donation requests:
Have your supporters do the personal asking by donating their birthday, wedding, or other big event to your organization. They’ll be asking their friends and family members to support your organization so you have now increased your pool of potential donors exponentially. Put together some appealing marketing materials and how-to guides so supporters have a step-by-step process AND beautiful email/print templates they can use for their events. Check out this great article on Classy for more ideas on planning this type of fundraiser for your organization.

Ask your staff, board members, donors, and other supporters to host a fundraising house party. The host takes care of all the party planning and requests a specific donation from all their friends for attending. Again, you should put together some great marketing materials and how-to guides for this type of event as well. Your supporters will be doing most of the work so help make this as easy and fun as possible. The ACLU has an amazing fundraising house party guide that can give you some ideas for creating your own guide.

Let your supporters get to know you and your staff. This is hard because I think most of us in the social service field are humble, behind-the-scenes types that want to shine all the spotlight on our clients and communities. But building a relationship with your supporters helps establish trust, which leads to an increased likelihood of donations.

Here are some simple ways to let your supporters get to know you:
Highlight a different staff member each time you send out your newsletter.
Record a Facebook live video so supporters can see the work you’re doing (be sure to get the appropriate permission and releases from anyone in the video). Feeling skeptical about going live? Check out this article by The Balance for ideas on getting started.

Ask a client to write a short testimonial about how a staff member has helped them and then publish it through social media or newsletters.
Invite all your supporters to your location for a site visit.
Set up a job shadow day so supporters can learn more about the great work you do every day.

Hopefully my instant donation experience gave you some ideas to help drive your fundraising plans for 2018. But I’m just one person and my reasons for giving won’t necessarily be the same as YOUR supporters’ reasons.

So, here’s my challenge to you:
1) Ask your supporters why they choose to give (or not give) to the organizations they support. January will be the perfect time to ask since all those donation requests they received in December will be fresh on their minds. Not sure what to ask? Check out these 23 great questions by Bloomerang.
2) Use their responses to modify or create your fundraising plans for 2018.

What compels you to give? Add your thoughts in the comments below!

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December 23, 2017

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