Give donors what they value and they will reward you

March 25 2013 - Mark Phillips

A new study aimed at improving our understanding of donor motivation and behaviour has just been published by New Philanthropy Capital.

The report, Money for Good UK, looks at both mainstream and high-income (£150k+ household income) donors. It's a hefty 90 pages long, so whilst I recommend putting a few hours aside for an in-depth read, here are a few of the most important points.

First off, a chart that shows what donors value the most – explanations of how donations are used and evidence of impact.

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I don't need to point out that there are loads of similar studies that report the same findings. What's particularly interesting here, is that they ask donors to rate the sector's performance.

As you'll see (on page 53), little more than half of the mainstream donors surveyed think charities perform particularly well in demonstrating impact or explaining how gifts are used. Worryingly the number drops to less than 45% amongst high-income donors.

But the reserachers didn't stop there. Unlike other studies, they dug a little deeper.

They went on to ask what would happen if charities did a better job in these areas and found that the outcome would be rather substantial…

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And after some serious number crunching, NPC have also been able to quantify the impact of giving donors what they want…

  • If charities did a better job in the areas donors care about, it could lead to donations INCREASING by £665 million.
  • Donors would be likely to SWITCH their giving (to the tune of £1.7 billion) to charities that put the effort into showing them how their gifts made a difference.

It might sound obvious, but what does this mean?

Quite simply, a focus on demonstrating how donations are used will not only raise more funds from your current donors, it will reduce attrition and improve recruitment as you attract new donors who currently give to other charities.

Of course, we can't discount the impact of cause and emotion from the reasons why people give. As NPC's Chief Executive, Dan Corry, says in the report…

"A picture of a child in need trumps a whole lot of analysis, whatever impact geeks might hope."

But no matter the organisation or the work they do, this report demonstrates that many donors question whether their gifts actually make a difference.

And that is something we should be rather keen on addressing. Because at the end of the day, that is a fundamental reason why anyone gives.

By focusing on this key donor need we will not only raise more funds, but also bring our supporters closer to the work that lies at the heart of what we do.