publication date: Dec 1, 2011
author/source: Leah Eustace
A few weeks ago, we celebrated National Philanthropy Day.
It's an occasion to reflect upon the magic that happens when donors connect
with the causes that matter to them. And often, it's the large gifts we
celebrate: the million-dollar donation to the local hospital, or the volunteer
who spearheads a $100 million capital campaign.
Not that these gifts aren't worth celebrating. They are. But
we tend to lose sight of the importance of celebrating our regular donors,
those who are giving gifts of $5 or $10 whenever they can afford it.
Here's this month's tip: Spend the extra time it takes to
properly thank and steward your "small" donors. You may be surprised at the
Refugee on disability
gives every year
At the Ottawa Philanthropy Awards last year, the recipient
of the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award was an incredible woman
named Tereza Top
. Tereza is a
Sudanese-born Canadian who has overcome many barriers in her life: she faced a
devastating war before fleeing to Canada, and had to deal with a diagnosis of
schizophrenia soon after landing here.
Tereza lives on a disability pension, but that doesn't stop
her from being a donor. Each year, she diligently saves her money so that she
can donate $500 to each of five different charities.
proportion to income
One of many remarkable things about Tereza's story is that
the charities that she supports noticed her particular generosity. As a
proportion of her income, she may be one of the most generous donors in Canada,
but typically, a $500 donor is not one about whom press releases are issued and
articles are written.
I've been thinking a lot about those donors who give small
amounts a few times a year - donors like Tereza who scrimp and save because
supporting their favourite charities is important to them.
Over the past week, I've been asking fundraisers about their
"small" donors. I wanted to know about how they treat them and the value of
those donors, and I've asked for their stories.
"Small" donors make a
I've heard of $2 donors leaving $500,000 bequests; $2 donors
increasing their giving after being cultivated and stewarded; $2 donors acting
as "sneezers" (spreading the word about the charity to others around them), and
I've been told, passionately, how important these folks are.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Here we are
investing $30 or $40 for each new donor we bring on board (less than half of
whom will give a second gift). Why wouldn't we invest in our $2 donors as well?
Many charities don't offer receipts (unless asked) for those
donors who give small gifts; others don't bother with a thank-you. They claim
that they lose money by sending these to their $2 donors. Well, that's true,
but they lose a lot less than what they invest in acquiring a brand new donor.
How to treat your $2
Here are some ways you can treat your $2 donors. I urge you
to try some of them and let me know what happens:
- Send them a personalized thank-you and tax
- Invite them to your annual donor
- Treat them the same way you treat your
- Recognized them for their loyalty (do you
have a donor who's given $2 a year for 10 years? That's worth
- List them in your annual report
(particularly for their loyalty);
- Take advantage of the relatively low cost
of social media and email to thank them; and
- Choose two or three of them to call each
week for a personal thank-you.
of the board for the Ten Oaks Project
says that it's thanks to donors under $10 that Ten Oaks placed second in the 2009 Canada Helps Giving Challenge
goal wasn't to raise a huge pile of money; it was really about building awareness
and tapping our networks to build relationships with new donors. It was a great
way to engage with our program participants, who encouraged all of their
friends to give $1, $5, or $10, as we were aiming for the prize for most
individual donations. We used Facebook and Twitter, as well as our e-newsletter
mailing list to get people in on it."
Ten Oaks also used Facebook, Twitter and its website to thank
their donors and express gratitude for their generosity. Many of those donors
have gone on to become regular supporters.
The evidence is clear: investing time (and sometimes money)
in those donors giving less than $10 is well worth the effort.
Leah Eustace is principal and managing
partner with Good Works. "A ‘fundraiser's fundraiser" with a wide background in
charitable fund development, she's worked with clients including the Canadian
Red Cross, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, CARE Canada and the UN
Refugee Agency Canada on social media, direct marketing, donor research and
president of the Ottawa Chapter of AFP and a member of AHP, NTEN, the CMA and