Ask donors to give their time and they’ll probably give more money

by guest blogger George Crankovic

In fundraising appeals, we have a one-track mind. We ask for money, but rarely if ever for donors’ time as volunteers.

Asking donors to give their time may increase their giving, research shows.

In one study, The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect, people were split into two groups. One group was asked how many hours they’d be willing to give as volunteers to a certain charity, while the other group wasn’t asked about volunteering at all. Then both groups were asked how much money they’d give.

The people who weren’t asked about volunteering gave an average of $24. But the group that was asked first about volunteering gave an average of $36.

You might think that guilt motivated people to give money in place of time spent volunteering. But researchers concluded it’s more complicated than that.

People generally have positive feelings when they consider spending their time. They think about social events or other activities that represent emotional meaning and well being for them. So when they think about spending time volunteering, it has positive emotional connotations. But when asked to spend money, people go into a more analytical mode. They evaluate the dollars spent and what they get in return.

Two different mindsets. Emotional for giving time; analytical for giving money. We know that donors give for emotional reasons, and based on this research, asking donors to volunteer their time is another way to tap into emotional motivations for giving a gift.

Will it hold true for your donors? Here are some ways to find out:


  • Add a checkbox for donors to get more information about volunteering on the response device of your direct mail appeals and on the donation page for your e-appeals.
  • Consider adding a story about a volunteer in your appeal. The story should fit in with the offer, of course, but showing donors how their gifts empower volunteers could emphasize the time aspect of giving.
  • Include a prominent call to volunteer in your newsletter that plays up the benefits of giving one’s time.
  • Have a story about a volunteer in your newsletter and emphasize how much this person enjoys it and draws satisfaction from it.

Certainly worth testing. Asking for donors’ time could boost income, and at the very least, you’ll gain volunteers.


Comments

4 responses to “Ask donors to give their time and they’ll probably give more money”

  1. Brandy Nielsen Avatar
    Brandy Nielsen

    This is an excellent post! I think people like to be part of a “winning” team so when you can involve donors to be a part of that team by volunteering, they will be happier and want to give more. Plus, it makes them semi accountable when they go out to ask for donations, because people will ask them “What have you given?”
    You suggest making a “call” to people to volunteer. Once people reply to this call what is the process to determine who you would like to volunteer or not? I was just curious because there is the possibility that someone may not quite represent the organization in the same way the mission calls for.

  2. Brandy Nielsen Avatar
    Brandy Nielsen

    This is an excellent post! I think people like to be part of a “winning” team so when you can involve donors to be a part of that team by volunteering, they will be happier and want to give more. Plus, it makes them semi accountable when they go out to ask for donations, because people will ask them “What have you given?”
    You suggest making a “call” to people to volunteer. Once people reply to this call what is the process to determine who you would like to volunteer or not? I was just curious because there is the possibility that someone may not quite represent the organization in the same way the mission calls for.

  3. I wonder if this is a corollary to the adage “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.”?
    Also – remember to plan for this. It’s frustrating to volunteer, only to find that the organization has no idea how to use volunteers!

  4. I wonder if this is a corollary to the adage “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.”?
    Also – remember to plan for this. It’s frustrating to volunteer, only to find that the organization has no idea how to use volunteers!

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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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