Donors Concerns about Giving—and How to Overcome Them

A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that nearly two in three donors would like to give more to charity, but many are concerned about exceeding their personal budgets. Meanwhile, a whopping 81 percent of those who give are unsure if their donations are even making a difference or are appreciated, and more than half of all donors are uncomfortable with giving when they can’t verify a charity’s credibility or trustworthiness. How can your nonprofit or organization address donors’ concerns about giving, put their minds at ease, and communicate how their generosity touches the lives of others? It’s easier than you might think.

Start with your story. If you haven’t homed in on your “why,” start here. Once you’ve nailed it down the reason your campaign or project is needed, work on developing core messaging that addresses the nuts and bolts of the project, who it benefits, and how it supports your mission. The best approach is a brief narrative that speaks to donors on an emotional level, supported with eye-catching graphics. The more compelling your story, the more likely you are to attract donations of all sizes.

Be transparent. Always remember to share details with donors on where and how you’ll use the money, and how it will be accounted for and reported back to them. Consider creating an annual report, if you don’t already have one. If your organization doesn’t seem big enough or have enough fundraising projects to justify the expense of an annual report, at the very least create an attractive, easy-to-read 1-page summary of the results of each campaign and mail it to donors, so they can feel confident knowing exactly how their money has been spent and who benefits from it.

Remember: Donors want to be thought of as people, not pocketbooks.

Educate donors on the personal and financial benefits of being generous. Even if they’ve been generous in the past, many donors worry about changes in their personal finances and how they impact their ability to give in the future. Help donors conquer their fear by communicating the benefits of giving, from standard charitable deductions to writing off donations of stock that has risen sharply in value. Be sure to mention the personal satisfaction that comes from giving, or even quote from this article, which shows a direct link between happiness and generosity.

Be thankful. In the Chronicle of Philanthropy study, 37 percent of participants said they’re annoyed when a charity doesn’t thank from for their gift. We’re a little shocked at this number, simply because a thank-you isn’t an option; it’s a must. Think of it this way: if a friend comes to your home for a dinner party and brings a bottle of wine or a dessert, you wouldn’t dream of just taking the item without saying thanks. Even though you might not be able to thank donors on the spot, you should still make sure they know their kindness is appreciated.

Don’t forget to reach out in ways other than solicitations. Donors want to be thought of as people, not pocketbooks. The best way to show them you care about them beyond their capacity to give is by staying in contact with them outside of fundraising campaigns. Share a fun video your staff created, or send a holiday card—and resist the urge to include a “give now” button or call to action. Although it’s good marketing practice to include these on most of your communications, occasionally forgoing it will address one of donors’ biggest concerns about giving: that they’re not going to be asked for money every time they hear from you.

For your most regular and generous donors, make a list of the industries they work in or a few of their personal interests and send them links to relevant articles or videos. Use an article-manager app like Pocket, Instapaper, or Flipboard, so when you come across something interesting, you can conveniently save it for later use. Then plan to take an hour every four to six months to send a personal e-mail to each top donor.

If you know that Joe Wright, for example, has seven grandchildren and loves traveling, e-mail a link to a recent article like “The 10 Best Summer Vacations for Families.” Or for Jane Smith, who’s fresh out of grad school and is just starting a career in the tech industry, send a link to an article such as “Women CEOs in Tech Talk about What Inspires Them.” Include a short message like “Saw this and thought of you. Hope you’re having a great [summer/fall/year/sabbatical]!” Yes, this does require the extra step of sending individual messages. But if you plan ahead and include the task in your regular workflow, and enlist the help of your administrative or support staff, you’ll find that it really doesn’t take up that much time—and it can pay dividends well into the future.

You can also mail donors a small token of your appreciation, like a flash drive with your logo on it or a handmade item from your staff or participants who benefit from your program. Check out this post for more great suggestions for how to say thanks.

By getting into the mind-set of those who give and addressing donors’ concerns about giving, we can stay ahead of any downward trends in charitable giving, and set our nonprofits or organizations up for success in the future. All it takes is a few simple steps that can be incorporated into any fundraising campaign or project workflow—and the awareness that our donors are people whose personal stories should be valued as highly as the mission of our own organization.