Give the money back to donors

Here’s a cool idea from the NTEN Blog: Say “No” to Money (to Make Money). Goes like this:

Set an ambitious but not unachievable target, and vow to your donors that unless you hit that target in the allotted time, you will return all the money raised so far. Every single cent…. By opting into the ‘conditional giving’ or ‘in it to win it’ strategy, it has been proven that your donors are more likely to rally … and come through for you. They know exactly what is at stake, and they won’t let you down.

I think that’s great. It does what fundraising so often fails to do: Make it clear how urgently and specifically each gift is needed.

But I’d change it in a small way: If we failed to raise the total needed, I’d go back to the donors and ask them if they want their money back. (Assuming the promise to give it back wasn’t integral to the offer in the first place.)

Having made the decision to give, who wants the money back? From talking to a lot of donors, I get the sense that the key moment of most charitable gifts is the giving. Not the purchase of the equipment that results. Sending back the gift could be just being a pain. You mean I have to figure out what to do with that money again?

And then extend the idea: What if a certain project you’ve raised funds for gets over-funded? Go back to those donors (or maybe the ones who gave after the need was funded) and tell them they can have their money back. Of course, you can offer them the choice of re-allocating their gift to something similar (which you could make the case for) or even unrestrict it.

My guess: The vast majority don’t want their money back, but really appreciate being asked. Some will be moved to give an additional gift. And most will become more connected, committed, and generous than they were before.

Donor-respecting actions that would clearly demonstrate that not only does their money matter, but their opinion too. That’s when fundraising becomes a whole new thing.


Comments

4 responses to “Give the money back to donors”

  1. This is an idea we discussed as well on our blog http://blog.agentsofgood.org/2010/08/04/your-money-back-guarantee/ but it sounds like – in Canada anyhow, the idea of giving back a donation is not possible. We can’t even offer it. Which is really too bad for the donor…

  2. This is an idea we discussed as well on our blog http://blog.agentsofgood.org/2010/08/04/your-money-back-guarantee/ but it sounds like – in Canada anyhow, the idea of giving back a donation is not possible. We can’t even offer it. Which is really too bad for the donor…

  3. I think it’s a bad idea. As a PR person I would never set up a campaign with built in failure option for the constituents. Donors don’t want their money back, and it may cause them to speculate on your ability to carry out your mission! Especially if you’re a younger non-profit.
    Instead, you could build in a more attractive goal such as… if we reach $20,000 so-and-so foundation will match your contributions up to $50K. Or, if we do not get enough for the cat-scan machine by such-and-such a date, the donors will chose where next year’s big fundraiser for it will be held. That gives donors a sense of responsibility for reaching the goal, without making it sound like the campaign failed.

  4. I think it’s a bad idea. As a PR person I would never set up a campaign with built in failure option for the constituents. Donors don’t want their money back, and it may cause them to speculate on your ability to carry out your mission! Especially if you’re a younger non-profit.
    Instead, you could build in a more attractive goal such as… if we reach $20,000 so-and-so foundation will match your contributions up to $50K. Or, if we do not get enough for the cat-scan machine by such-and-such a date, the donors will chose where next year’s big fundraiser for it will be held. That gives donors a sense of responsibility for reaching the goal, without making it sound like the campaign failed.

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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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About the blogger

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.