And what it can mean for you.


This year I set out on mission to make donations to nonprofits each week - partly for the sake of giving and partly for the opportunity to observe and track what happens during and after each transaction. 

I guess you can call it primary research. 

Although 31 is hardly a statistically significant amount of research subjects, there are a few things I've noticed now that I'm more than halfway through the project. Perhaps one or two will resonate with you and the organization(s) you serve:

  1.  Every organization accepted donations online. However, not every donation page was easy to find. Many orgs made me click through multiple pages to hunt down the proper link to actually make a gift. And several led to beta-looking forms with little or no context or information about the importance of donating. 
  2. Only ONE has asked me for a second gift. I'm not looking to be solicited ad nauseum, but study after study has shown that people who make a second gift are around 60% more likely to continue giving. The statistics for those who make a second gift at all is staggeringly low (less than 20%) but, considering the lack of follow up I've personally experienced, I have to believe that's mainly because they weren't asked. (The one organization that has asked me for a follow-up donation is the American Heart Association. Additionally, I've made second donations to some organizations of my own volition.) 
  3. Only a few have sent me postal mail.  In fact, from what I can tell, only about five have added me to their mailing list (of any kind) at all. To be fair, there have been some notable standouts - like Haywood Street, The Jacques Pepin Foundation, and the Roswell Park Alliance - who send me regular email updates and newsletters about their organizations. But very few have sent me paper mail - even though research suggests that donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail solicitation. I have nothing against trees but showing up in physical form - like a letter in the mailbox - can increase the lifetime value (not a big fan of that phrase, btw) of donors. 

So here are the opportunities, as I see them:

  • Go to your own website and try to donate. Notice how many clicks it takes, what the pages say, and how secure they look. Then make any adjustments you may need to clarify and shorten the donation path. 
  • Pull a report of all of your new donors in 2023 and send them an email or letter asking for a second donation. The right messaging* makes this seem like an obvious next step, not a greedy bother.
  • Look at your online donor list and make sure they also receive your paper communications (if any)...and vice versa. Think more “omni-channel" instead of multi-channel to make the most of every new donor opportunity.

All in all, making these donations week after week has been an enlightening - yet somewhat predictable - experience. Many organizations, particularly the small shops, have taken the time to send personal emails in response to a gift. As a matter of fact, I expected much more from the big national nonprofits because they presumably have well-oiled development and marketing machines. But, as it turns out, some of the smaller, locally-based organizations have had the most impressive follow up.

The bottom line is that your organization has an opportunity to stand out by simply doing a good job with the basics. Effective fundraising does not have to be complicated - in fact, the less complicated, the better!

If you'd like to hear more about my donations - like this one to Mal’s Palz, this one to Amazement Square, or this one to the Anderson Center for Autism - take a listen to the 52 Gifts podcast.

*If you want help finding the right words to ask new donors for follow up donations, I'm at your service.

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