3 Things You Need to Know About Donors

Donors are a magical thing in the minds of most non-profits. Because of donors, your organization can accomplish what it needs to- what isn’t magical about that? For many of us, the donor doesn’t just represent money- they represent future, growth, opportunity, and movement. The more donors you have in front of you, the more opportunity you believe is in front of you.

Because of this fact, it’s easy for our ministries to look at donors like royalty- we roll out the red carpet and put on the white gloves, because if their money leaves so does our future. While whipping out your most expensive China seems like a great way to keep your donors around, I want to encourage you to do something different. I want you to learn more about your donors and why they give.

1. Donors are driven by passion

It’s so important to understand how donors think. Do you know that most donors give to you because of their passions? With limited amount of money to give, each donor wants to put money into things that matter to them. As I’ve worked with ministries, I’ve seen so many organizations that put effort into donation gifts or hashtags, but don’t focus on the main reason people are donating.

If you’re a ministry that is focusing on Foster Care- tell a story from your week of working with families in transition. If you’re feeding the homeless- include a picture and testimony that encouraged your staff. If you’re working with teen moms, talk to your donors about the child development curriculum you’re working on and how it will help break the cycle of poverty. Put the catchy gimmick aside and start with the passion. Your donors will listen.

2. Mid-Level donors are your secret sauce

Do you know most of your donors will fall into this category? They are mid-level donors who give a few times a year. Typically this group is interested in just a few ministries and has some connection to you, your story, or your leadership. For many of us, it’s easy to go into “cruise control” with this group. We are so busy keeping our high end donors happy and recruiting new donors that we neglect keeping up with the most important group.

Mid-level donors want to know what you’re doing! These donors care a lot about a connection- a quick phone call and an update to tell them where their money is going will go a long way. It’s a sacrifice on their end to be supporting what you’re doing, and it’s crucial to keep them informed. As a ministry it’s so tempting to pay attention to the “squeaky wheel” when it comes to donors. However, ministries we have worked with who are thriving are all prioritizing their mid-level donors. How can you connect with your mid-level donors this month and let them know how important they are to your work?

3. Education is important

Do you know there are bad ways to motivate donations?

Let’s take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from a couple of years ago. Yes, it was in everyone’s feed and raised a TON of money ($115 million to be exact), but do people know more about ALS because of it? Simply throwing ice on your head didn’t educate the donors. This campaign had millions of one time donors that will never be connected to the ALS association again. So why did people give? It was peer pressure, not passion.

It’s easy, and very tempting, to motivate someone out of guilt (pictures of starving kids) fear (the political climate is killing something we should stand for) or peer pressure (everyone else is doing it). However, that doesn’t build a long term relationship with your donor. Motivating your donors in a bad way gives you a quick response and a quick dollar, but it will be hard to keep the wallets open long term.

Instead of taking a shortcut to fundraising, some of the best donors are built through education. Do you educate your donors on what you do? Do you educate them on what their money does? Do you educate your donors on why your ministry exists and how your work is changing the world?

Jason Lehman is the CEO of Keenly Interactive, a strategic planning consulting group that partners with ministries all over the world. To learn more about working with Keenly, click here.

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