One Thing Today’s Donors Want Most

What do donors want right now?

We know that donors in 2011 have cut back their giving and are focusing on fewer organizations than ever.

And they are looking for one thing more than anything else.

Donors are looking for IMPACT.

The big question they are asking is:

“What are you doing with my money?”

“Are you wasting it? Or are you making a difference?”

If you are not addressing these questions in your communications to your donors, you can expect a serious drop off in donor renewals. You don’t want that, do you?

So here’s what you give them – a report or better yet, a web page, called:


Forget the boring “Annual Report.” (Research shows that donors don’t read them anyway.)

Instead give your donors EXACTLY what they want – information on how their gifts are used financially.

And tell them in no uncertain terms how they are making a difference in the world changing and saving lives.

All the research studies right now are showing that today’s donors are more “performance oriented” than ever – so give them performance data.

What to put on “Your Gifts at Work” web page:

Here’s what should be in your “Your Gifts At Work” report or web page. (BTW – make it the most important page on your web site too.)

1.    Pie chart on where the money comes from.

2.    Pie chart on where the money is going.

3.    Photo of cute kid (if possible) and a story about how your organization changed or saved their life.

A real-world example.

Check out – I give them major high marks for putting the pie charts right there on their home page.

  • CARE’s Programs by Activity
  • How CARE’s expenses are Allocated

And actually one of the home page links (there are several) is a donation landing page.

Clearly this organization is all over state-of-the-art online fundraising. We can all learn lots of lessons studying their site.

Also, amazingly – right there on the home page, is a link to the Charity Navigator page  for CARE.  There you can find summary financials,  the name of the board chair, the salary of the CEO, and 3rd party ratings on CARE’s organizational efficiency.

Do you have the guts to put the Charity Navigator or Guidestar link for your organization on your home or donation pages?

Here’s an organization that understands “transparency.”

We’re all talking a good talk about transparency. But I am not finding many nonprofits that want to practice it.

But here’s the thing. If this is one of the most important factors donors consider when deciding whether to renew a gift, maybe you better put it into action.

Remember, today’s post-recession donors are different than the ones a few years ago.

Today’s donors want as much BANG for their buck as absolutely possible.

It’s YOUR job to tell them how you give them that BANG.

Your same old same old story about your organization isn’t going to cut it with today’s (and tomorrow’s) donors.

Try copying CARE’S site. It’s clearly a donor-centered site, a donor-centered portal for donations, and demonstrates a state-of-the-art donor-centered fundraising process.

Give donors what they want and they’ll reward you with continued giving.

No matter what’s going on in the economy.

Do you agree? Let me know with a comment!

  • Cary Worthy

    That sounds great for those organizations that are designed to change or save lives and are national organizations. I am not sure how to give a donor how we are changing lives by providing the arts for our community. And we do, do the same ole same ole because that is our mission. We provide arts to the citizens of our county not the world.

  • Barbara Kavadias

    Hi Gail,

    I love getting your columns each Friday. Very down to earth, sensible advice. I did go though to the home page and it has been changed, maybe because of Int’l Women’s Day and they do not have the pie charts there right now. I thought you might want to know.
    Again, thanks for your column.

  • B.F. Beasley

    Gail, this advice speaks volumes to all Non-Profits
    Thank you for sharing

  • Michel Hudson, CFRE

    Great article with concise, actionable points! You’re so right – our donors are no longer going to give to our organizations just because it’s a good thing to do. They want to KNOW WHY it’s a good thing. “Show me results” seems to be the string that’s attached to even the smallest gifts these days. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Dawn R.

    I like it! In today’s competitive and savvy donor world we MUST thank donors in a sincere and timely manner and we MUST tell them how their gift has impacted the organization! Love the idea of adding a page to the web sites called “Your Gifts At Work.” Going to recommend it to a few of organizations in the process of updating their web site and Facebook pages!

  • Sandra Kern

    This is a great idea! I’ll have to do that this year instead of an annual report.

  • Gail

    Cary – great point. Here’s what you do for your wonderful arts organization: Tell your donors exactly what you did with the money. How many productions did you help underwrite? How many school children (young minds) did your arts programming reach and inspire. How many people in your whole community had their lives enhance and uplifted by your arts programming?

  • Mark Burns

    Great comments Gail. In light of what you shared, I’m just about to record a few radio announcements highlighting how our listener’s “gifts are at work” and the “bang for the buck” they are getting by supporting Christian radio. Thanks for the simple reminders that make all the difference!

  • Gail

    HI Barbara, thanks for the heads up on the CARE home page. Check out their landing page for donations. When I googled the other day I ended up on a donation landing page with the charts. How’s that for being right out there in front asking! :)

  • Kim Carpenter Drake

    Reading through the comments, I saw that some organizations have more trouble articulating impact than others. I often see the same challenges in the classes I teach on fundraising and among my clients. I would offer one additional piece of advice related to your post: if you find it difficult to easily and clearly articulate your impact in these terms – you need to reevaluate your messaging. Every organization needs to speak in these terms and our missions should reflect a common sense connection to those we serve. This doesn’t mean it is always easy, just necessary. Thank you for your great focus.

  • Gail

    Great point, Kim, messaging is absolutely critical and can almost always be sharpened, improved and focused!

  • John Ripley

    I couldn’t agree more with the points you make regarding PERFORMANCE and how that translates to the online experience. Previously, I worked for a great historic preservation nonprofit and we certainly couldn’t show pictures of cute kids, but our donors experienced the positive feelings of supporting their charity regardless. A donation is supposed to be a joyful act for the donor, and they naturally want to see & hear how their joyful act has meaning towards the org’s mission! That’s how you show them impact.
    As for the website, too many org’s write their website for the “entire world” to read at once, treating it like a presentation and forget that viewing a webpage is an INDIVIDUAL experience… a donor-centric webpage keeps the individual donor in mind regarding content, layout and experience… Make it easy to navigate, don’t try to cram everything on the first page, and show people what you’re DOING with their money.
    Keep it coming Gail… hope to meet you in Chicago!

  • Gail

    Thanks so much John! And you are absolutely on point! DOWN with web sites that are like brochures and UP with web site that are user focused, giving visitors what they are looking for! Hope to see you in Chicago too!

  • Kate

    Gail, couldn’t agree more, but have a practical problem. We’re changing our fundraising mix to make it ultimately cheaper and more stable – an expensive investment, ie we’re starting a donor marketing programm from scratch. So our pie chart looks terrible now and won’t look great for about 3 years. We’re doing it for great reasons (to secure the future of our work for our beneficiaries) but superficially it looks terrible. Any thoughts? Focus on the impact of our work and side-step the expenditure pie-chart for now? Thanks again, Kate

  • Gail

    Hi Kate, I think you are on the right track. I’d downplay the charts for a while. But be as transparent as you can possibly be. Can you tell your donors about your investments and why you are making them. That would be smart if you can do it positively.

  • Alexandra Peters

    Love the idea of this, Gail, and think that telling donors about the impact of their dollars is not only what they want to hear, but it’s respectful. But I’d add that donors want to feel that they they have a real part in creating that impact. I’d recommend also addressing things to donors in every way as if they are in partnership with the organization. Because they are.

  • Patricia Copeland

    I absolutely agree with the approach of posting a pie chart of operation versus mission expenses and providing a major donor with specific information in the form of a Case for support that resonates with that donor and their gift interest. This provides them with key information for basing their gift on and it is the best approach for a successful ask in my view.

    Patricia Copeland
    Major Gifts Officer
    United Way of Greater Simcoe County

  • Eric Haven

    How may I subscribe to your emails?


  • Gail

    Hi, there is a sign up box on the upper right hand side of my web site! Just enter your info there, ok?