Give Donors What They Want: Proof of Impact
Over the last several years, the competition for donor attention among non-profit organizations has increased significantly. In a local community, there are often hundreds of organizations seeking private funding to sustain and grow their operations, so they can continue to execute their mission of service. Would-be donors receive numerous emails, texts, direct mailings, and other marketing attempts to persuade them to support many worthy causes.
The global pandemic has exacerbated donor fatigue. According to a recent article in The NonProfit Times, “The most significant reason that there’s concern about donor fatigue as a result of COVID-19 is that donors’ financial situations have changed.” Whereas donors may have previously been able to spread their discretionary funds among multiple organizations, they instead must reduce the number of charities they support and/or the amount each receives, in favor of a (hopefully) temporary shift to “charity begins at home”. When they recover from any negative financial impact, their approach to giving likely will have changed. I expect donors to apply much more scrutiny before handing over their money, even for organizations they have routinely supported in the past.
Non-profits can respond to and take advantage of this trend by providing a clear line of sight between the donor’s gift and its impact. A general, all-purpose donation is not likely to be freely given unless there are tangible results that can be demonstrated and shared. Otherwise, donors – if they give at all – may insist on a restricted gift where they dictate how the money is spent.
My message to donors
Attention Donors: Hear my plea on behalf of deserving non-profits:
If your intention is to help the organization fulfill their mission, do not restrict your gift!
Unless the organization requests that you fund a specific project, give them the freedom to decide how best to use the funds.
You may think you are protecting and serving the organization’s clients by stipulating a specific purpose for your money. However, the needs and priorities of non-profit organizations and their clients are constantly changing. It is possible that what you are choosing to fund already is properly funded by other means and/or is not the greatest need at the organization, in which case your money would be put to better use elsewhere in the organization.
We donors love to imagine putting a smile on the faces of those served by our favorite non-profits. When I worked in a human services organization, unrestricted donations were often used to provide support and experiences for clients that were not funded by other means, such as Medicaid. Many times, these were the experiences that influenced their quality of life the most. Now, that’s impact! Unrestricted gifts made that possible.
My message to receivers
Attention Non-Profits: Donors have the right to hold you accountable for making good decisions on how to spend their money. You just read that I encouraged unrestricted gifts, which technically means you can do whatever you want with it. But as good stewards of private funds, it is your obligation to:
Make sure the donations are responsibly allocated, and
Provide information to the donors about how their money is spent.
I am going to assume and expect that you are following through on the first obligation, without need for me or anyone else to convince you further.
You can fulfill the second obligation with careful tracking, reporting, and analysis. I believe it is unrealistic in most cases to follow the path of an individual donation from receipt to expense; however, in aggregate, this is not only possible but expected. You can prepare a report for your donors that demonstrates the impact of their collective gift. If you received $50,000 this year from all private/individual donors, share what you did with that $50,000 even if it was combined with other funding, such as grants. List the programs that benefited from the donor generosity, along with specific client outcomes such as number of people who moved to less restrictive housing or percentage increase in self-sufficiency (which you can capture via assessments). Include success stories of clients whose lives were enhanced by these outcomes.
The advancement/fundraising function must evolve with changing donor preferences and behavior. Having effective systems in place to track, analyze, and report donor and impact data is critical to staying nimble. The NonProfit Times article referenced previously shared that, ”Two-thirds of organizations are considering investments in new tools and technologies to address fundraising challenges.” The competitive landscape for donor dollars will not get any easier. But you can make the process easier and more effective by strategically leveraging technology.
At Continual Care Solutions, our imPowr Community module includes donor, event, and grant management among other features. You can use our library of Success Stories to capture achievement of client goals and special experiences. The reporting and dashboard capabilities are robust and real-time, so reports are always ready and up-to-date. No need to take hours, days, or even weeks to generate reports!
Schedule a demo today to learn more about how imPowr can enable you to demonstrate the impact your donors want to see.