Would you like to find more donors?
Would you like to have more donors renew and upgrade their support?
Would you like to raise more money for your nonprofit organization?
If so, avoid de-motivating people by making them think their support is insignificant, unnecessary, and unwanted.
Donors want to feel their contributions are making a difference. If they do not feel that is the case, they’ll take their support elsewhere. Consider the following representative comment voiced in a focus group hosted by researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang:
[W]e feel this strong sense of wanting to make a difference.”
Yet, despite this simple truth, many charities regularly alienate prospects and donors. Although the alienation is almost always unintentional, it remains a very real problem. Reflect on the following representative comment heard in a focus group study conducted by The George Washington University:
When you see bequests given to universities they are substantial. You really feel embarrassed that you don’t have that money.”
So, what are nonprofit organizations doing that is embarrassing and alienating donors? Well, many things. For now, I’ll focus on just one action that underscores the point raised by the GW alumnus.
Many organizations celebrate the support of mega-philanthropists. They profile these individuals in institutional publications; they recognize them on donor walls; they thank them at public events. While all of this is perfectly appropriate, a problem arises when an organization recognizes mega-donors to the exclusion of all other supporters.
When people see that only mega-donors are celebrated, they can begin to think that their support is unnecessary and not genuinely appreciated. This is true for annual giving, planned giving, capital campaign giving, and other types of campaigns.
If you want a diverse group of supporters, be sure to celebrate a diverse group of supporters. When people see people like themselves supporting your organization, research shows they’ll be more likely to support as well. When I speak of cultivating a diverse group of supporters, I mean in every sense of the term: gender, race, religion, age, philanthropic means, etc.