With the growing trend in charitable giving of “donors down, dollars up” ministries are seeing an increased reliance on major donors to sustain and grow their work. In fact, a 2020 study found that around 85% of all revenue brought in by charitable organizations between 2018 and 2019 came from major donors.1
Recent research around the motivations and habits of wealthy donors from US Trust points out a glaring opportunity to best engage this donor segment: communication of impact.
The 2018 study found that 94% of wealthy donors give to an organization because they believe in its mission and 93% do so because they believe their gift can make a meaningful difference. Yet, the study also found that 54% of donors did not know if their gifts actually had their intended impact. The vast majority of donors, 71%, look to the charity for this kind of information.
Not only does a lack of communication around impact leave donors feeling unsure, it also may cause them to stop supporting the organization altogether. 16% of wealthy donors who stopped supporting an organization did so because they felt the organization failed to sufficiently communicate its impact.2
So how can your organization make sure you are effectively sharing your impact with your major donors?
The Signatry has had the joy of working with thousands of charities over the years. Our team has seen some wonderful ways that organizations have shown donors the power of their generosity. Here are a few ideas to consider for your own major donors:
Personalized Report/Quantifying the Impact
Help your donors know exactly how far their contributions went. How many families did they help complete through adoption? How many children did they help educate? This not only informs donors of their impact to date but it can also motivate future gifts as they shape generosity around impact instead of only dollar amounts. Keep in mind the area the family cares most about and lead with that. Not only does that speak to their heart, but it also demonstrates you know them well.
Example: Edify shares how their cost per student was brought down to $4.55 in 2020.
Video/Testimonial from the Field
Literally “show” them the work they helped make possible through the production of a short video. This is especially great in circumstances where the work is distant from the donors. Open their eyes to the people and places they have invested in. With the availability of Zoom and other platforms, consider doing a live feed from the mission field or shelter, etc. Where donors can have direct access to the work, they will feel more compelled and invested.
Example: eMite pays a full-time videographer to share celebration videos for each of their completed projects.
A Celebration Event
Bring together a community of top donors for a special time of celebration and storytelling. Small group donor events are a great way to celebrate the work and connect donors. Try incorporating donor stories as well. As donors share their “why” it can inspire others. Take it a step further and invite donors who have given through non-cash assets to share their experience in generosity. Research shows there is social power in knowing “donors like me give this way.”
Example: A giving circle called the Kingdom Investment Foundation hosts a celebration night to report back on how donors’ generosity has created impact.
A Unique Keepsake
Is there something donors can keep for themselves to remind them of the important work they have taken part in? This could be an engraved brick from the completion of a school building or a copy of a newly completed translation of the Bible. Provide a tangible reminder of the transformational work.
Example: A clean water charity called neverthirst gives a branded item like this water bottle to show appreciation for continued support.
Each of these examples, and the many others that exist, will leave no doubt in the donor’s mind that they are a part of great work. Be creative and have fun with it. What will make your major donors feel appreciated, engaged, and meaningful?
1 – 2020 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, Association of Fundraising Professionals
2 – 2018 US Trust Study of High-Net-Worth Philanthropy