One way to really screw up your fundraising is to make bad assumptions about your donors. The most common way we do this is to assume donors are (or should be) exactly like us.
Another common way we make incorrect assumptions about donors is to think all of them are just like the small number of donors we interact with personally. This error is outlined at PhilanTopic, at Blinded By the ‘Sophisticated Donor’?
The donors you most likely talk with face-to-face are major donors and institutional donors. What they know, and what they want, are very different from the large mass of more typical donors:
Not everyone is a “sophisticated” donor. Not everyone is a professional fundraiser or works for a foundation or corporate giving program. In fact, very few people do. And people … seldom give to a charitable cause or organization because they’re looking to achieve impact or based on a chart of performance metrics; they give because it makes them feel good, or because it’s a worthy cause, or because, like me, they want to help a friend.
I’ve rarely seen a fundraising message that failed because it was too simple.
I’ve seen hundreds of fundraising messages that failed because they were too complicated.
We are constantly tempted to fundraising from ourselves or our friends — or those atypical donors we know and like best. Complexity and sophistication do not translate well to normal donors.
What’s the difference between a major donor and a regular donor?
The major donor gives bigger gifts.
Most of the other differences are less important and have more to do with the ways we can afford to cultivate high-dollar donors. We’d do the same strategies for regular donors, except if we did we’d spend more raising funds than they gave.
Here are some observations about major donors from Fired-Up Fundraising. Most of them also apply to regular donors. Top 10 Trends: How Major Donors are Changing and What To Do About It:
- Donors are wary of trusting us.
- The Boomers are becoming the #1 donor population.
- Older ladies are THE major donor demographic.
- Donors want Donor-Centered communications.
- Major donors who volunteer give more. Much more.
- Major donors are all over social media.
- Major donors look at their gifts as investments. They want to see impact and ROI.
- Major donors are assured when they see the financials and the numbers.
- Like most of us, donors are feeling overwhelmed, jaded, and even bored.
- Major donors love a Big Idea.
Even if you think you’re raising all your money through traditional offline channels, your website is an important part of your fundraising. Donors and would-be donors routinely check you out online. Does your website build trust and give them what they need to say yes?
Here are some ways to do that, from the GuideStar Blog, at Using Your Nonprofit’s Website to Build Trust with Visitors:
- Make financial data easy to find.
- Make reaching out easy. (Anyone who wants to connect with a human being should easily be able to.)
- Give specifics.
- Stay true to your word. (Deliver what you promise.)
- Give concrete examples of past success.
- Send progress reports regularly.
- Include thoughts from past supporters.
- Include thoughts from the community you serve.
- Include endorsements from experts.
Why do your donors leave? For the most part, it’s your fault — the things you do (and don’t do) drive away donors. But there’s a lot you can do to keep donors happy, engaged, and giving. We look at some of those smart fundraising moves in this podcast and the previous one.