Thousands of Canadian donors share actions, opinions

publication date: Jul 13, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Based on the responses of 11,300 donors who completed at least part of the newest donor survey from Penelope Burk's Hamilton-based Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., the news is good. There's potential for more giving from strongly loyal, disciplined donors.

Here are just a few key findings from the 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey:

Monthly giving is worth the effort

Burk cites research from Cornerstone showing that the average retention of a monthly donor in Canada is 30 months, compared to less than a year for single-gift donors. Since it's less costly to keep monthly donors active than to keep single gift donors giving, charities can count on a sound monthly giving program to boost revenue and reduce costs. Who are the likely prospects for monthly giving? Burk's latest study provides some clues and recommendations:
  • They already pay other bills via automatic deduction - charities should emphasize that monthly giving is just as easy but makes you feel much better;
  • They've been asked. That applies across all age groups, including the under-35s, who respond well to face-to-face solicitation - but they may need new communication strategies to keep them engaged;
  • They appreciate higher revenues and lower costs - but in follow-up communications, charities should emphasize mission to nurture a deeper emotional connection.
As for those who don't respond when asked to give monthly, by far the primary reason (84%) is that they prefer not to be committed to a fixed gift amount for an extended time.

There is a caution, though, in this year's findings. Though monthly donors report a fairly high level of trust in the organizations they support, they say they're no more likely to give a major or a planned gift to those charities rather than to nonprofits they support less often.

Frustration with over-solicitation

Cygnus confirms that up to a point, it's worth asking donors who have already given to give again. As the report notes, "Donors do not define over-solicitation as a certain number of asks per year; they define it as being asked to give again before learning what happened with the last gift."

Ultimately, though, the answer to "how often is too often?" is unique to your charity and your donors. Analyze your current retention and attrition rates, and note where the average gift amount levels off. Then talk to active and lapsed donors about what affects their giving frequency, amount, and the choice to discontinue.

It's worth noting that only one in four donors was fully satisfied with how charities responded to requests for reduced solicitations. Four in ten said none of their requests was honoured, even in part, while nearly three in ten reported only partial compliance. That lack of response is costly: 58% of all respondents and two-thirds of those over 65 said they reduce or eliminate their gifts to charities they perceive as asking too often.

General satisfaction with charity websites

Seventy-one percent of donors said they found what they were looking for on charity websites: a chance to give (46%); news about the organization (44%); the charity's accomplishments (39%); and an explanation of intended use for current donations (29%). If your website doesn't offer all that, and make it easy to find, start now to address the shortcomings.

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