Do you want your donors to give or to donate?

When raising funds, should we ask people to “give” or to “donate”?

My answer: Both.

Here’s why:

  • Give is a warm, personal word. It’s what we call it when we give something to someone close.
  • Donate is what most donors call it when they give to charity.

So I tend to go back and forth between those two words: The one I want them to feel (give) and the one they most likely use to describe the action (donate).

Another synonym for the same thing is chip in. This is used a lot in political fundraising. So much that it’s clearly been tested and proven strong. Try it in your fundraising. It might have some magic. (Or not: the audience for political fundraising is quite different from the audience for charitable giving.)

Here are two words I avoid:

  1. Gift (used as a verb:” Please gift us whatever you can today)
  2. Contribute

To my ear, these words are jargony and bureaucratic. They don’t hold a candle to give or donate.

The challenge with word choice is that it’s almost impossible to test it. Testing a letter with versions where only a single word is the difference is sure to return statically insignificant results. So unless you are mailing in the millions, you have to rely on instinct and other people’s experience.

This particular word is an especially important one in fundraising, so give it a little extra though when you write your message.


Comments

2 responses to “Do you want your donors to give or to donate?”

  1. To which I might add… Consider using the word “invest,” especially with major donor prospects. People care about their investments and they follow them (which, of course, reminds you of the importance of reporting back).
    I’m not a huge fan of “chip in” as it implies what I’m giving is small. For the same reason, I don’t love “contribution” as it implies YOU are not the hero, but your payment towards a larger sum will help. The difference is subtle, but… look for the word you believe will make your donor feel TERRIFIC.
    I do like “gift” because… we all love gifts! They’re thoughtful and come from the heart.
    Also, you might test a word like “Give” against “Donate” on your website donation button. This should yield meaningful results.

  2. To which I might add… Consider using the word “invest,” especially with major donor prospects. People care about their investments and they follow them (which, of course, reminds you of the importance of reporting back).
    I’m not a huge fan of “chip in” as it implies what I’m giving is small. For the same reason, I don’t love “contribution” as it implies YOU are not the hero, but your payment towards a larger sum will help. The difference is subtle, but… look for the word you believe will make your donor feel TERRIFIC.
    I do like “gift” because… we all love gifts! They’re thoughtful and come from the heart.
    Also, you might test a word like “Give” against “Donate” on your website donation button. This should yield meaningful results.

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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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