Why do donors give so little?

why do donors give so little-

I heard Mark Phillips talk about this once and I want to wax philosophical on it for a few minutes.

We seem to hear year after year from research like what Penelope Burk does that donors didn’t feel they gave as much to charity as they could the year before.

Why is this?

Put simply: We’re not asking enough of our donors.

We’re not asking them often enough. We’re not asking them for enough money. We’re not giving them enough ways to engage with us more deeply.

On the point of not asking donors for enough money, Mark has a great illustration of this.

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Why do donors give so little? Because we ask them to.

Now don’t think for one second that I don’t think every gift is important, that every donor is important, or that every person who supports a cause with a dollar a day is stupid.

I value all donors.

But we have been part of this misconception that that’s what charity costs: a dollar a day. That’s all a donor needs to give to make a difference and feel engaged.

We have been doing ourselves – and donors! – a disservice by perpetuating this falsehood.

And when it comes to mid-level donors – or potential mid-level donors – who you know I love talking about, this is part of the reason why we have disengaged and uninspired donors in the middle: because we aren’t giving them a special enough opportunity to engage with us.

We aren’t inspiring them with a big problem for them to solve through a big investment.

Donors give us a lot and they are so amazing and we are so grateful.

However, donors seem to be telling us that they aren’t giving as much as they can.

So let’s find ways to inspire a new level of giving among our donors.

And then steward the hell out of ’em so they know how much they mean to us.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Mid-Level Gifts

Happy New Year!!!  I hope that everyone enjoyed a lovely holiday season and that 2014 is off to a good start for you.  I am a person that really enjoys the promise a new year brings – opportunities for fresh starts, recommitting to goals, reflecting on the accomplishments of the last year, and considering with excitement the year to come.  Bring it on!

But on a totally unrelated note, I’d like to talk briefly about mid-level gifts.  When I attended the 2013 CCAE National Conference last June in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I attended a session on mid-level gifts.  These gifts, categorized differently by different organizations, are becoming a bit of a hot topic in fundraising.  We keep our annual funds running smoothly (they are the life-blood of our organizations, after all), and we focus our attention on those ever-important major gifts, but what about the area in between???  What about those people who are giving (or have the capacity to give) year after year in, for example, the $5,000 – $25,000 range?  These are meaningful gifts, making a measurable difference for your organization.  Are they getting attention?  Do you know anything about these donors?  Are you stewarding them?

What do we know about mid-level donors?  Some of the things I’ve learned from colleagues, at conferences, and in my own experiences, are that these donors don’t necessarily know the difference they’re making through their gifts.  They give loyally and consistently, and aren’t asking for much in return.  There’s not much of a culture built around these gifts.  6-figure and up gifts often have more fanfare – naming opportunities, receptions, gift agreement contracts, and expectations from the donors, but mid-level gifts don’t have that.  I’m not saying they should, but perhaps mid-level donors should have a bit of a community built around them.  I talked about a culture of philanthropy in my last post of 2013… perhaps there could be a culture of mid-level giving…

What would a culture around mid-level giving mean?  Well, it could mean that mid-level donors know that they’re mid-level donors.  They have “chinned themselves up”, to borrow a term from my current Executive Director, to a larger gift than the average annual donor, because they have the capacity to, and the passion to.  Their gifts are making a significant impact on your organization, and they ought to know it.  Perhaps this group of donors could have a name, and a way of being recognized, like an annual cocktail party.  Maybe instead of just passively watching those larger gifts come in, you could meet these people face-to-face; get to know them, have them get to know you, understand where their passion lies at your organization, and then let all that information simmer so that when the right project comes along… they could be the major donor.  

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the donor pipeline.  Yes, these mid-level donors have the potential to be major donors down the line, but they’re also incredible just as they are… and we need to make sure they know it!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email