Three Tips on Increasing Donor Engagement

A new study from software maker Abila looked at some of areas of disconnect between donors and nonprofits. Here’s a look at several of the main findings and how they may affect your fundraising efforts.

Most  fundraising campaigns do not reach the level of success of a recent crowdfunding effort to send middle school kids on a tour of Harvard.

Over a period of three months earlier this year, more than 50,000 people donated to an Indiegogo campaign raising more than $1.4 million to send a class of a sixth grade students from Brooklyn to tour the university. Backed and promoted by the blog Humans of New York, the campaign’s end tally far surpassed its $100,000 goal.

It was the kind of viral success that a similarly successful fundraising campaign, the Ice Bucket Challenge, saw last summer.

But, while these examples demonstrate incredible one-time successes, many fundraising professionals are grappling with the issue of sustaining donations, or keeping donors engaged beyond one campaign.

Last fall, a survey of fundraisers found that deepening relationships with supporters was one of their biggest challenges, along with finding likely contributors.

Now a new study by software maker Abila looks at some of the motivations behind and around donor behavior and what keeps them engaged with organizations. In an effort to help nonprofits better engage with those who contribute to their organizations, the study surveyed both sides of the equation to determine how much donor preferences and the organizations’ donor engagement strategies coincide or diverge.

Here are a few highlights:

You may be communicating too much. The survey found a disconnect in the preferred frequency of communication between donors and organizations. For example, while 42 percent of nonprofits reported they are not communicating enough with contributors, 65 percent of donors were OK with the amount of communication they were receiving from the organizations they support.

“By and large, donors prefer to be communicated to only a couple of times per year or a couple of times per quarter, regardless of channel,” the study noted. “Anything more starts to be too much for donors.”

In terms of modes of communication, most donors reported they preferred newsletters, direct mail, email, or a thank you note or call every once in a while.

Giving money makes donors feel engaged. “It’s the act of donating that makes a donor feel the most engaged and involved with an organization,” the study noted.

Volunteering and other actions like advocating for an issue also lead donors to feel engaged with an organization, but giving money to an organization placed higher on the engagement scale for donors.

The study also noted that these types of activities do not discount the value of communicating or deciphering how and when to communicate with donors.

Personalization matters. Nonprofits could do a better job of personalizing the donor experience. Just a little more than 50 percent of donors reported that they feel organizations take their preferences into account when communicating or asking for donations.

The study also found that 80 percent of nonprofits are using the amount a donor gives as the primary, and often only, method of targeting donors, as opposed to also using demographics, channel preferences, interests, and so forth. Applying one data point to target many donors creates a greater divide between donor expectations and the organization, while using more than one data point to target individual donors can create a higher return.

“Using those multiple data points to target the individual donor will improve the donor experience, increase engagement and retention, and accelerate and increase giving—matching the experience they have with other entities in their daily lives,” the study noted.

How does your association engage with its donors? Please share in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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