Gallup Poll: Donors Not Feeling the Love

The most recent “Health and Well-Being Survey” conducted by Gallup provides alarming insight about the effectiveness of nonprofit donor recognition efforts.

Among those surveyed, 81 percent say they have donated money to a charity within the past year. In addition, 52 percent of survey respondents say they have volunteered their time during that same period.

Given the high-level of engagement, Gallup wanted to determine whether survey respondents were “feeling the love and received recognition for their efforts to help improve the city or area where they live.” Unfortunately, the findings are disturbing:

•  Only 15 percent of respondents agreed with the The Applause by Rachael Tomster via Flickrstatement “In the last 12 months, I have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where I live.” This includes 5 percent who “Strongly Agreed” and 10 percent who “Agreed.”

•  Conversely, a whopping 69 percent of respondents disagreed with that same statement, including 45 percent who “Strongly Disagreed” and another 24 percent who “Disagreed.”

There are a few things that might explain the disconnect between the philanthropic/voluntary involvement of survey respondents and the recognition they received, or didn’t:

1.  Many of the respondents may have donated or volunteered for non-local causes. For example, donors may have given to alma maters in a different geographic region. Alternatively, donors may have given to or volunteered with national or international charities.

2.  Survey respondents might not think of their giving or volunteering as “[helping to] improve the city or area where they live.” For example, if one gives to a local animal shelter, she might think of it as helping the kittens and puppies but not necessarily think of it as improving the community.

3.  Survey respondents might not fully understand the definition of “recognition.” For example, some donors might think of “recognition” as being profiled in the local newspaper because of their philanthropic efforts. Other donors might think of “recognition” as being honored with a plaque at a special event. Others might think “recognition” means receiving a t-shirt. Still others might think of “recognition” as a well-written thank-you letter.

If the disconnect between giving/volunteering and recognition was small, I wouldn’t be too worried; the disconnect could be explained. However, the disconnect revealed by the survey is massive. Even allowing for a large margin of error for the reasons I’ve just outlined, I suspect we’d still see a significant #DonorLove gap.

Considering the anemic donor-retention rates throughout the nonprofit sector, I’m even more convinced that Gallup has uncovered a legitimate concern. As a statement from Gallup says:

It seems most communities and organizations are missing an opportunity to validate donation and volunteer efforts by recognizing those who offer them.”

Here are just some of the things you can do to ensure your donors and volunteers feel appreciate:

1.  Survey your donors and volunteers to see if they feel appreciated. Ask them what the organization can do to make them feel more appreciated. By the way, the mere act of properly surveying your donors and volunteers will make them feel more valued.

2.  Send immediate, well-crafted thank-you letters. In addition, send as many handwritten thank-you notes and make as many thank-you calls as you can.

3.  Track volunteer hours and recognize athem when they hit certain benchmarks. Just as you provide greater recognition to major donors, you should provide greater recognition to major volunteers.

4.  Provide donors and volunteers with relevant information about what your organization has accomplished with their support.

5.  When expressing appreciation, do not simply thank donors for their money and volunteers for their time. Instead, also be sure to thank them for caring.

6.  Further educate yourself. You can read my other posts on the subject of donor relations; you can read the blogs of others; you can study a book on the subject; you can attend a webinar or seminar.

7.  Help others by sharing your favorite, most effective ideas for making donors and volunteers feel recognized and appreciated. You can provide your ideas below in the comment section.

Acquiring, retaining, and upgrading support is a challenge that almost every development professional faces. One way to be more successful with your appeals is to provide more meaningful recognition to your donors and volunteers. It costs much less to effectively recognize your supporters than it does to acquire new ones.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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4 Comments to “Gallup Poll: Donors Not Feeling the Love”

  1. If you consider a gift, make sure it’s personal. I noticed one time a donors bracelet. It was made of bass guitar strings. I didn’t say anything to the donor at the time, but I purchased an inexpensive bass guitar and had his favorite band autograph it. Understand, this took me months to accomplish, but I stuck with it. The donor was overwhelmed that I would be so observant of his personal interests. When you are in a donor’s home, take notice of your surroundings, a personal gift idea is staring right at you.

    • Jared, thanks for sharing your terrific story. Personal touches are much valued by donors than impersonal ones which are meaningless to the donor. I also thank you for pointing out that meeting with a donor in his or her home can produce benefits for both the charity and the donor.

      For those interested in reading about where to meet and where not to meet donors, checkout my post on the subject by clicking here.

  2. Working now with donor-advised fund holders in a public foundation and two observations: each donor / family has a different wish/expectation in terms of gratitude and recognition (challenge), very few of them feel they are receiving what they hope for from the charities they give to (opportunity). We forward every thank you letter and report we receive on their behalf and when we get a phone call with gratitude, always call donor to see if they’d like to receive that call directly. So most just want a simple thank you note and so few receive even that. Kudos to the charities that are trying and warning to those who are not – your donors are sad about it and disengaging from causes they once felt passionate about.

    • Christina, thank you for sharing your insights. Donors who give through DAFs do indeed present a special recognition challenge for charities. As you’ve rightly pointed out, it’s essential that charities rise to the challenge by making an effort to reach-out to these donors. If a donor wants to remain at arms length, fine. However, very often, donors and their families will appreciate the recognition and the information that charities can provide.

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