What donors don’t care about

Is there something wrong with donors? You might think so, based on survey finding published at YouGov, a public-opinion site in the UK: Charity: head not heart? Here’s some of what UK survey respondents claimed:


  • 68% would stop donating to a charity if they found it to be performing poorly
  • 42% said that the charity’s results would influence their decision to donate to them in the first place
  • 40% were interested in the idea of a grading system of the charity sector
  • 29% say their decision to donate is based more on emotions than as the result of a rational thinking process

(By the way, that last one points out the problem with survey research: 29% say they give based on emotions. The actual percentage for that is 100%.)

The questions these results raise are these: Only 68% would stop donated to a poor-performing charity? A minority (42%) are influenced by a charity’s results? And only 40% want a grading system for charities? Do these people even care if their charities are crummy?

The answer is, Of course they care.

The real question should be, Are we asking the same questions about charity performance that they are asking?

It’s not reasonable to expect the majority of donors to become expert at charity effectiveness. Because every single niche of every single sector has a whole new set of facts and rules. Even the experts have trouble keeping up, and they sure can’t agree on what matters most when evaluating them.

We need to communicate effectiveness in donors’ non-expert language. Unfortunately, the charity watchdogs have chosen percentage of revenue that goes to administration and fundraising as the one easy metric — and a lot of donors buy that. That’s an awfully narrow slice to base decisions on.

Here’s what you should do:


  • Make detailed, believable statement about what you need from donors.
  • Make your receipts detailed, prompt, and interesting.
  • Report back — a lot — on the impact of donors’ giving.
  • Find amazing ways to connect the donor with the work. The more personal and real, the better.

That’s how you’ll get and keep “quality” donors who care about the same things you care about.

Cogent discussions on this are at Tactical Philanthropy, Queer Ideas, and New Philanthropy Capital’s Blog.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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