8 Important New Fundraising Trends for 2011: What Today’s Donors Want

This week everybody’s talking about Penelope Burk’s latest survey of donors.

Penelope Burk

She issued her 2011 Cygnus Donor Survey this week – a moment many of us “trend-spotters” have been eagerly anticipating!  And it reveals some major trends we all need to watch.

22,000 donors from all over North America responded to her survey (17,605 from the US), and here’s what she found out:

1. Donors plan to be more generous in 2011.

A whopping 79% said they are planning to give the same or more to charitable causes in 2011. Time to celebrate!

Burk said  “Our donors are not giving anywhere near their capacity.”  Can you imagine:  48% said they held their giving back last year.

THIS MEANS: With donors feeling more generous and planning more gifts 2011, you need to be cheerfully in front of them often with clear, compelling, urgent fundraising messages.

2. Donors are supporting fewer causes.

Burk says that many donors are making a philosophical decision to support fewer causes.

Very interesting: older donors are supporting more causes than younger donors. 23% of donors over 65 are supporting 20 or more causes, but only 9% of donors between 35 and 64 did so.

THIS MEANS: With younger and middle age donors becoming much more selective, you have got to work harder than ever communicating how your organization achieves results.

3. Donors are becoming increasingly independent.

They are giving independent of a solicitation. And they are deciding to give based on their own personal research – usually research done online.

These donors are not as open to appeals and solicitations, because they are acting independently.

THIS MEANS: With donors researching you online, your web site has got to demonstrate credibility and impact. And you need a clear message about how donors’ gifts are used.

4.  Donors are rapidly evolving away from direct mail.

Burk sees a continuing decline in donors’ desire to transact their gifts through the mail.

Of last year’s direct mail donors:

  • 26% said they plan to give less thru the mail this year,
  • 1% said they were going to give more via the mail.

What is driving them away from direct mail?

  • Over-solicitation.
  • The perceived cost of fundraising.

THIS MEANS: With 2 out of 3 gifts still coming in via the mail, you need to continue to invest here. But don’t over-solicit!

5. Donors are increasingly favoring giving online.

The majority of donors in every age category said they’d give online this year:

  • 86% of young donors
  • 69% of donors between 35 and 64
  • 53% of donors over 65

Online donors think giving online is cost effective. And fundraising costs are important to them.

THIS MEANS: Make sure your website has a seamless donation process. Be sure your gift form is easy to fill out.

6. Donors are changing the way they want to give.

They are more independent and choose how they will give, regardless of how they were solicited.

Even if they receive a direct mail solicitation, they still may go to your website and give there.

Burk found that one out of three donors who received direct mail, responded by giving online.

THIS MEANS: Direct mail will be increasingly important to online gifts.  Many donors on your mail list may be giving online in response to the mail appeal.

7.  Donors prefer electronic communications over print.

Burk found that 69% of ALL donors preferred electronic communication. What a sea change!

THIS MEANS: You need to sharpen up your internet communication skills – they are different than direct mail communication skills. Make sure your emails to donors are interesting and brief.

8. Donors are becoming more concerned about fundraising costs.

That’s what’s driving many of them online.

And many think that “token” gifts and premiums are too expensive.

THIS MEANS: You should be careful about token gifts, particularly those not closely aligned with your mission. Also be careful with obviously expensive mail appeals.

What do 2011 donors want?

They say they will continue to give because:

  • you have a great reputation and appear trustworthy.
  • you are achieving measurable results.

They say they’ll drop you because:

  • Their priorities shifted to other causes (41%).
  • They feel over solicited. (32%)

Are you ready to take advantage of these trends?

Hope so, because your fundraising results will depend on them.

You can access the Executive Summary of the Report or purchase the full report here.

So do you agree with these trends? Tell me why or why not with a comment!

  • Guest

    I’d definitely have to echo #8. In the last two weeks, I’ve received lavish “kits” of notepads, notecards, stickers, a pen–even a gift bag! from two big charities. This makes me not want to give to them, since obviously they have plenty of money to waste on gifts.

  • Anonymous

    I agree! I hate to get a big pile of “nothing” from a nonprofit!

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