Low-end Donors Matter, Too
April 5, 2005
By Paul Barbagallo
It's well known that 80 percent of your donors account for 20 percent of your overall annual fundraising. But in 2003, that small-dollar 20 percent crowd anted up more than $48 billion, according to Giving USA statistics.
Diane M. Carlson, chairman of Nevada-based nonprofit consultancy IDC Corp., advised conference attendees Sunday to delve deeper into their "modest-donor pool," learn more about their giving behaviors and, most importantly, listen.
Unfortunately, donors of all income levels often are perceived as having the same giving propensity and behaviorial patterns, but that some are just more well off than others. But the motivations and characteristics of major donors differ greatly from those of low-end donors, and it would behoove fundraisers to understand the stark contrasts.
For starters, Carlson identifies the most common traits of major donors: committed to the mission of the organization; have long-term donor loyalty; need regular personal cultivation, either through telephone correspondence or face-to-face solicitation; are motivated by tax considerations; want to know who else is giving; are motivated by donor recognition; and are vastly more interested in restricting their gifts.
Lower-dollar donors, however, couldn't care less about the latter. Carlson says small-dollar donors understand that their unrestricted modest gifts, coupled with other donors' unrestricted modest gifts, make a real, attributable difference to the organization they're supporting.
Other characteristics include wanting to support a "cause," contributing to seven to ten different nonprofit organizations annually, and having little or no interest in deducting their gifts come tax time.
What's more, low-dollar donors, according to Carlson, want more opportunities to give than high-dollar donors. Carlson suggests affording the little guys an option to give their gifts in installments of four or five payments to increase the likelihood of receiving a higher annual donation and to improve long-term retention. Also, consider removing the $25 level from your ask string and start with the highest gift and then work down, which for many nonprofits' low-dollar appeals is $500.