“Because we need it” is not a fundraising strategy

The average gift of new donors was too low.

We were asking for $15, $25, $35, $50, and $100. We were getting on average $18. At that average, it was taking too long for the fundraising program to start producing net revenue.

The development director had a brilliant idea: Ask for more. He told us to change our array of ask amounts to $30, $50, $75, $100, and $150.

What happened? Two things:


  1. Response fell off the table. Not surprising. When you raise the bar, fewer people jump over it. Sometimes, that’s okay — you lose volume, but gain enough in value that it’s worth the lower numbers. Two $75 donors are worth more than five $25 donors. Sadly for us, something else happened…
  2. Average gift dropped to $16. That’s right, by asking more, you can actually push down average gift.

The error the development director made was thinking donors will change behavior because we need them to.

It doesn’t work that way. What we need is irrelevant.

If you double the “price” of your offer, you may end up destroying your value proposition to donors.

In this case, donors found the offer to be “worth” $18 (on average). When we said, “Now it’s $30,” many donors just walked away. Of those who responded, a lot chopped our $30 ask in half.

If you want donors to give more, you have to offer them more.

It’s up to us to figure out the more that donors will pay more for.

Increasing the average gift of first-time donors is a great thing to do. It can have long-term positive impact on your entire fundraising program. But you can’t get there just by wanting donors to give higher amounts.


Comments

2 responses to ““Because we need it” is not a fundraising strategy”

  1. Hi
    We’ve found exactly the same with direct response TV in Australia, Hong Kong and Korea. Same average gift (around $18) on a a lower ask (from $10 up), with response rates collapsing around the $25 mark where the proposition itself hasn’t changed.
    Alex

  2. Hi
    We’ve found exactly the same with direct response TV in Australia, Hong Kong and Korea. Same average gift (around $18) on a a lower ask (from $10 up), with response rates collapsing around the $25 mark where the proposition itself hasn’t changed.
    Alex

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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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