To our way of thinking, nonprofit donors are looking for a few key pieces of information prior to considering any donation. Then, after they’ve made that first investment, the information they need to affirm their initial decision and motivate them to make that next donation are pretty much the same. Here’s our take on what nonprofit donors want to see from their contributions.
Donor Behavior Research
RootCause’s report “Research-Informed Philanthropy: Donor Behavior in Seeking and Using Information” found that donors are looking for specific information on a nonprofit’s performance and impact before they make a decision to donate. That research also finds that donor behavior is driven by existing donor knowledge of the cause or charity either from their own experiences or through someone they know.
Of those that regularly give to new causes, 57% percent actively seek information about causes and 72% actively seek information about specific nonprofits. What they’re seeking is information about the long term benefits and impact. Of those who donate regularly:
- 75% are seeking information about the nonprofit’s impact,
- 68% want information on fundraising or overhead costs,
- 63% are trying to find information on the social issue that the nonprofit addresses,
- 56% want a list of specific projects supported by the nonprofit.
That same research identified what donors would like to see versus what they are actually finding:
- 64% want to know the extent that the nonprofit is using best practices (only 20% are finding this information now)
- 62% need benchmarking information comparing several nonprofits (only 15% are finding this information)
- 60% are seeking ratings, reviews, and recommendations by third-party organizations (only 31% are finding this information)
This donor behavior research ties in nicely with the effective altruism movement, which seeks to do the most good for the most people and to demonstrate that with specific outcome measures. It’s a growing movement driven mostly by 20–30 year olds. This isn’t the demographic with the most wealth, but it will reach that stage and is one more reason to focus your organization’s communication on performance and impact.
All the data points cited above are focused on demonstrating cost-effective stewardship of donations. Once the donor has identified a social cause, they want to find the nonprofit organization that can best leverage their support to directly address that cause.
Here, again, your communication to prospective and current donors needs to share information on how you’re using donations to make a difference with your programs.
Transparency Builds Trust
This also boils down to being completely transparent with the numbers and operational aspects of all your programs as well as your organizational overhead. Being completely open and honest with your donors and prospective donors also builds trust. That, in turn, builds loyalty to your organization and its social cause.
I like the example of the “Community Impact Report” issued by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. It focuses on outcomes and takes the time to clearly explain the programs they are implementing and their outcomes. Plus, it gets results with continuing donations as well as new donations.
Trust Builds Donations
A study of thousands of donors asked the question “What could unleash your philanthropy at a whole new level?” Nearly 50% of respondents said they had more money to give but didn’t because they needed more information about how their past donations had been spent.
Oh my goodness. Here are donors that are already supporting the organization but need more information about how their money is being spent before they can give more. So get your information out there to drive the next donations from your existing donors.
The donor behavior research cited above noted that donors are specifically looking for comparisons and ratings between nonprofit organizations. That’s difficult to do on your own and would be subject to doubt as to the impartiality of your own analysis. But there are independent organizations that take on this task.
Charity Navigator and GuideStar provide these services for donors. They are independent, derive their data from open information sources, and they provide ratings within the context of similar nonprofit organizations. Further, you can set up your organization’s account and provide data directly to tell your story within their systems.
We highly recommend that if your organization is not already on these services, that you take the steps needed to get listed.
Gratitude for Donor Support
I’ll end this post with an admonition to never, ever, miss an opportunity to say thanks for a donation. Notes, emails, you name it. Do it in a personal way that’s also meaningful to your donor. It works.
For further background, I recommend our blog post “Why Donors Give.” It provides excellent insight into all the factors that come into play and, if they come into play on the front end of the donation process, they are surely needed to keep donors on board.
We Can Help
We can help you with your donor communication, whether that be finding new donors or keeping in touch and up-to-date with your current donors. We've done this for many nonprofits over the years.
Contact us at (855) 329-4327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.