7 Strategies to Reach Today's Finicky Donors
In a really smart move, organizers of the 2013 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference, which took place in National Harbor, Md., in July, set up chairs and monitors outside some of the more heavily attended sessions so participants who spilled out into the hallways could be comfortable and actually hear the speakers.
I was out in the hall for one such session, “7 Game-Changing Strategies to Reach Today’s Finicky Donors,” presented by fundraising consultant Gail Perry.
In it, Perry outlined some important areas of concern for fundraisers, including ways in which high-value donors are giving. The 2012 Bank of America High Net Worth Philanthropy study, for example, reported that 74 percent of these folks gave because they were moved by “how [their] gift could make a difference,” supporting the notion that fundraisers must clearly and consistently communicate the result of a donor’s giving.
Among the trends discussed in the session:
Trend 1: Lack of trust
Donors are wary of trusting nonprofits. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer concluded that only half of the giving pubic believes that nonprofits can be trusted to operate with society’s best interest at heart.
Among the questions donors worry about: Will my money be wasted? Will it make any difference? Where will the nonprofit spend my money?
The steps Perry recommended to build donor trust:
- Foster personal relationships with donors.
- Be transparent.
- Be specific.
- Do what you say you will do.
Trend 2: Rise of the boomers as major donors
According to Kn Moy, senior vice president of innovation strategy at Masterworks, almost two-thirds of all boomers gave financially in 2010 (52 million). Boomers gave a third more than the “matures” and are highly motivated to give back and seek “meaning and significance.”
Perry’s boomer strategy included:
- Let boomers’ personal passions and interests guide their cultivation plan.
- Help them connect to what is most meaningful to them.
Trend 3: Older ladies are the No. 1 demographic
A study of affluent older adults by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University found that for every $100 men gave, the women in the same economic circumstances gave $258.
However, Perry shared this quote from an older female volunteer: “Some [older women] don’t feel the money in their estates is theirs to give away, because their husbands were the earners. It has taken education to help women donors get a handle on legacy giving. The interest is there, but the hesitation is, too.”
Perry’s “older lady strategy” included:
- Review your prospect lists.
- Re-evaluate the giving capacity of the ladies.
- Get to work and go see them.
Trend 4: Donors are volunteering
According to the Bank of America High Net Worth Philanthropy study, the average gift of high net worth volunteers who volunteer more than 100 hours is $78,000, while the average gift of those who volunteer fewer than 100 hours is $39,000.
Perry’s “volunteer strategy” was pretty straightforward: Get your donors on site and in action!
Trend 5: Major donors are investing for ROI and impact
According to GuideStar research, nine out of 10 donors say that an organization’s effectiveness is important. And fundraising consultant Penelope Burk concluded in 2011 that an organization’s track record of producing measurable results is the No. 1 reason major donors say they will give.
Furthermore, GuideStar concluded that donors want to see:
- The financial picture
- That a nonprofit is legitimate
- The breadth and depth of the cause
- The nonprofit’s impact
Perry’s “investment/impact/ROI strategy” included:
- Prove to donors that their gifts created results.
- Use infographics.
- Use plain language.
Trend 6: Donors want to see the financials
Organizations that leave donors in the dark about where and how their money is being spent won’t have to worry long about engaging their donors — since there won’t be many donors left to engage. Sharing financial information clearly, concisely and easily is vital, Perry said.
Her financials strategy included:
- Be transparent.
- Show them the numbers.
- Measure and show your results.
Trend 7: Donors are bored, jaded and overloaded
Face it, even the most innovative organization’s messaging can get lost in the sea of information people face any given day. To really stand out, Perry recommended injecting some surprise and delight into your messaging.
Her “surprise and delight strategy” included:
- Add surprise and delight to everything you do.
- Don’t be afraid to be quirky.
- When in doubt, throw a party!
Bonus trend: Donors want a big idea!
Donors and potential donors are just waiting for you to come up with that big idea that will motivate them to give and otherwise support your organization. Make it a point to put out big ideas that showcase your own passion for the cause and for giving, and your supporters will respond and follow suit.
A key idea behind Perry’s strategy here: “Listen so you know where people’s passions authentically line up with your own.”