Stewardship: Part 3

By Todd Cohen

Asked to identify the three actions by charities that would most affect their willingness to keep giving, donors surveyed by fundraising consultant Penelope Burk said they wanted prompt and personalized acknowledgement of gifts, confirmation that the charity was using their gift as intended and, before being asked for another gift, measurable results showing the impact of previous gifts.

If a charity took those three actions, says Burk, author of Donor Centered Giving, more than nine in 10 donors said they would definitely or probably give again if asked, more than six in 10 said they would give more, and nearly three in four said they would continue to give indefinitely.

Yet market research shows that only one in 10 donors keep on giving indefinitely, with the biggest loss of donors occurring between their first gift and their first “renewal,” Burk says.

Burk tested her survey findings with a client, the Toronto division of the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

In a campaign to renew donors who had made their first gift, members of the association’s board of directors phoned every 10th donor.

Nine of the 222 donors in the test group made gifts of roughly $5,000 within 60 days of getting the phone call, and gifts from the test group overall averaged 39 percent more than their first gifts and, in six solicitations over the next two years, 42 percent more.

To better tap the trillions of dollars expected to flow between generations and to charity over the next 50 years, Burk says, charities need to retool their business models, expanding their focus from direct marketing and telemarketing to also include the cultivation of donors for planned gifts.

“The more donors you have, the less successful you will be, because volume gets in the way of raising money,” she says. “If you’re chasing volume, you have no budget left to do the donor-centered things that actually raise someone’s gift level to a profitable level.”

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Charities aim to be better stewards by engaging donors

Part 2: Gap found between what donors want and how charities raise money

Part 4: Engaging donors tied to making their impact personal.

Part 5: Charities engage donors to build their fundraising base.

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