Study Shines Light on What Donors Want

The ways in which organizations engage and communicate with their supporters matters, says Abila’s Donor Loyalty Study.

People are more likely to donate to organizations if they feel engaged, and Abila’s Donor Loyalty Study: A Deep Dive into Donor Behaviors and Attitudes points to some ways that associations might better engage their donors.

Where does engagement start? The study calls volunteering and attending events “gateway drugs” because they lead people to donate. Nearly 75 percent of respondents who volunteered or attended an event said say they were more likely to donate afterward. “Getting them to come to events creates that human connection,” said Rich Dietz, coauthor of the study and director of fundraising strategy for Abila, a software and services provider. “That one-on-one attention builds loyalty.”

Because volunteering makes people more likely to donate, associations should consider how they can offer more and different opportunities to volunteer—and they need not be long-term commitments. “Micro tasks” might include mentoring young professionals, assisting with fundraising, sharing content on social media, and working on a membership drive, Dietz said. Associations can also think about how to get people engaged through committees and how to create leadership opportunities, he added.

Donors want to attend events that make a difference to the cause they support: 93 percent of respondents said this was important, and 76 percent said featuring personal stories of people affected by the organization was important. But respondents also valued what they learned about the organization itself: 85 percent said it was important for the event to teach them how the organization operates, and 63 percent said the opportunity to interact with the organization’s employees was important.

Associations might find ways for supporters to get to know staff, Dietz said. For example, staff might use social media or produce videos that create conversations between them and supporters.

Organizations should choose their communications carefully, the study suggests. Quality matters, and if the content that supporters receive is vague, dull, or irrelevant, the organization risks losing them. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they might stop donating because of poor content.

People also want shorter content. Respondents preferred short, self-contained emails (with no links), short letters or online articles (two to three paragraphs), and videos shorter than two minutes.

“No one is reading that big, long monthly newsletter,” Dietz said. Instead, break it up into four or five “snack-size” emails that people can get through more easily, he suggested.

Not everyone is averse to more frequent communications. The study found that 52 percent of respondents preferred communications monthly or quarterly, but younger respondents preferred more frequent contact. Millennials said they wanted content at least twice monthly.

Donors also want content that is personalized to them, the study found. This might mean sending people content based on programs they’ve already indicated an interest in, and it might include segmenting donors. Communications might also be tailored based on donations. “If you show donors the impact” of their support, they will be more likely to donate again, Dietz said.

Abila also created a video summary of the results:


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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