This is what’s keeping your donors from giving

by guest blogger George Crankovic. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter.

“Will my gift matter?” It’s one of the main things donors worry about.

Successful fundraising helps them see that their gift does matter.

But here’s the rub. If your donor thinks few others will give, then she may think her gift can’t matter, and the project can’t be successful. So, no gift.

On the other hand, if a donor thinks that lots of people will give, she might not think it’s important for her to give, since the problem will likely be solved by others. Here again, she thinks her gift won’t matter. So, no gift.

Some recent research explores this dilemma: Improving the Effectiveness of Fundraising Messages: The Impact of Charity Goal Attainment, Message Framing, and Evidence on Persuasion.

We need to get three things across to donors:

  • The donor’s gift will make a difference.
  • Other donors will give too.
  • The project can be successful.

The way to do this, according to the research, is to highlight the importance of the individual donor’s gift while also indicating that others are already giving. Here are three possible ways to do this:

  1. You can show the consequences of giving and of not giving — something you do in copy and graphics. This points out to your donor how the interests of the group are at stake.
  2. You can discuss in copy how important it is for your donor to make the decision to give, while you also suggest that your other supporters are taking part. While it’s true that social proof techniques point out that others are giving (like the ‘others give this amount’ callout on the remit), the idea here is to emphasize the donor’s individual gift while suggesting that the project will be a success only with other’s support. You’re getting your donor to act as part of a group for the benefit of all.
  3. You can work the idea that others are already giving into the offer itself. A strong offer would detail a specific problem, a specific solution, and a set of gift handles that are keyed to the donor’s level of giving. With an offer like this, the goal seems attainable, which is appealing to donors, then you add wording about the other supporters — something like this: “Please give $X to provide a night of shelter for someone who’s homeless. Your gift joins with the gifts of other supporters who are as committed to ending homelessness as you are.”

You’re more likely to help donors overcome their dilemma about giving when your fundraising message covers all the bases: your donor’s gift will matter, others will give, and so the project will be a success. That’s what the research says. But then you can do your own research, and test.


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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.

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