Everyone wants to be understood.
Taking the time to understand your donor is a great investment of your resources and will pay off big later.
Think about it: the more you know about what your donors want from you, the easier it is to give it to them. And donors who get what they want are happy donors.
Happy donors give more and stick around longer.
So, here is an A-to-Z guide through the wants and desires of today’s donor.
Today’s donor is
- Apprehensive. They’ve been burned before by charities that asked too often, caring more about the money than the donor. They’ve heard stories about big, national nonprofits whose CEOs make gigantic salaries and only a small portion of money actually goes to programs. They want to trust you, but they don’t want to waste their money. Your job is to build trust and show them you’ll be a good steward of their donation.
- Busy. Your donor won’t read long letters, newsletters, or appeals. Keep it short and clear. No vague requests. If they have to work hard to understand what you’re saying or asking for, you’ll lose them. They’ll toss whatever you’ve sent them without a second thought.
- Curious. After their gift, they want to know what impact their donation made. A quick update through the mail or email can give them just that. Here’s a shot from an email update after a short campaign from BESTWA:
- Demanding. Today’s donor is demanding, but in a good way. They want you to act like an organization that has its ducks in a row, not a rag-tag bunch who is barely holding it together. They want to trust that if they give to you today, you’ll still be around tomorrow. They’re demanding a higher level of professionalism and business acumen from nonprofits than donors of years past.
- Expectant. Your donor expects your nonprofit to be well run and fully staffed. They expect you to plan ahead and be smart with your resources. They expect you to be around for the long haul. They expect to be thanked for their donation and appreciated for what they do. Meet those expectations and they’ll stick around for years to come, supporting you all the way.
- Feeling. Giving is an emotional act. Today’s donor wants to feel the joy of helping make a difference. They want to feel good about helping you change the world. So much of our day-to-day experience in life is stressful that we are desperate for the times when we get to feel good about something. Do what you need to do to thank your donor and give them that good feeling they crave. Call to personally thank them. Thank them in a video. Get creative – there are lots of ways to fulfill that emotional need your donor has. Check out my playlist of Donor Thank You videos on YouTube.
- Generous. People love to fill a hole. If you can tell donors and prospects what their money will do and what you’re trying to accomplish, people will generously help. For example, if you share that it costs $35 to sponsor a girl in school and you have 10 girls who need a sponsor, you’ll likely get those girls sponsored pretty quickly. Here’s a great example from Illuminate India (click the link to go see the full page):
- Helpful. Today’s donor wants to help, once you show them that you appreciate them and their support. We all love helping organizations we like. Happy donors will connect you with other donors, additional resources, and give you their insights, feedback, and ideas to make your organization even better. Their help will be unleashed once they see that you’re open to it and ready to accept it.
- Interested. They want to help you succeed in fulfilling your mission and they love regular updates about your work. Be careful what you share though – they want to know about impact and outcomes, not programs and process. Don’t share internal language and jargon. Instead, tell them the stories of how they’re helping you make a difference.
- Jaded. They’re tired of the same old thing from the nonprofits they support (and yes, they support more than one). They need fresh, authentic messaging that makes them feel good about supporting you. Message fatigue is real! And you can stand out from the rest of the groups they support by offering them something juicy that they can sink their teeth into! Show them how you’re different by being real, keeping your word, and caring about them, not just the money they can give.
- Kindred. Your donors care about the work your organization is doing. You may even hear them say “I’d love to do what you do, but I can’t because….”. They are kindred spirits to you and would love to be beside you, shoulder to shoulder, on the front lines of your organization.
- Listening. They want to hear the stories of the lives your nonprofit is changing. They love the ‘before-and-after’ details that illustrate how you’re making a difference. They love the before/after stories you share on Facebook and the videos you post on YouTube. They love the updates you send and they especially love hearing your plans for the future. Want to really set them on fire for your organization? Ask their opinion about your future plans or your current activities.
- Mysterious. Sometimes your donors will do things that will puzzle you. Just remember, each donor has their own reasons for giving, and those reasons may or may not make sense to you. I once had a donor to a food bank say that her favorite thing about the food bank was that it was so environmentally friendly. By accepting surplus food into their warehouse, they were keeping it out of the landfill. I was floored! It was not an answer I expected, and I learned never to assume that I know why a donor does what she does.
- No-nonsense. Today’s donor wants communications that are clear and to the point. They don’t want a lot of fluff nor do they want tons of backstory. That means you must be a concise writer, get to the point quickly, and give them only the information they need to take the action you want them to take.
- Opinionated. Donors definitely have an opinion! And they’d love to share it with you. Obviously, they care about your cause and they’re likely to take a stand on your behalf. For example, many supporters of animal welfare nonprofits advocate against inhumane treatment, voicing their opinion on social media and contacting their governmental representatives. They may support the community becoming no kill or support specific animal welfare legislation even if your nonprofit has nothing to do with those things. If your nonprofit has highly-opinionated donors, you may want to give them a way to express those opinions through polls, surveys, and petitions.