The thing donors want from nonprofits might not be what you think. More than recognition or a tax deduction, donors want to have impact.
Impact comes in different forms and can mean different things to different donors.
Some will want to make an immediate impact for a specific campaign or organizational effort. Others are more focused on the bigger picture and long-term goals and sustainability.
The common thread of donor impact is in loyalty and values associated with your organization. Donors want to influence and help something they care deeply about.
It is your job to help them feel the impacts of their fundraising efforts. This will help increase donations over time and build a solid foundation for your organization.
What Donors Want from Nonprofits
Solid reporting and feedback are at the core of providing the right information to donors. Most people who contribute to a nonprofit want to see their dollars in action, regardless of the donation level or amount.
When fundraising efforts are tied to a specific result, such as raising the money for a new facility, it is a lot easier to see donor impact and progress toward a goal. But what about longer-term, general fund donations?
That’s where feedback becomes vitally important.
Start by publishing a regular donor impact report. Think of it in the same way you may plan an annual report, but focus the narrative solely on fundraising efforts and how donor support your organizational mission and goals.
Donor impact reports allow you to
- Tell your story and share successes.
- Show impact to donors in a tangible way.
- Provide transparency about your organization with data to support how funds are used.
- Help engage current donors and attract new gifts.
You can also engage giving circles with data and reports to chart their success. Giving circle reports help generate a sense of friendly competition between your donors.
Make sure you frame your donation asks around specific programs, events, or goals. Donor impact-centric is part of the formula for creating the perfect donation ask.
Providing data and information about impact is not just good for donor relations, it can also help spur future giving. A study from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society found that donors’ confidence in their knowledge of philanthropy correlated positively with giving:
“31.3 percent of ‘novice’ households believed that their giving had an impact, compared to 53.0 percent of ‘knowledgeable’ households and 80.3 percent of ‘expert’ households.”
Impact is One of Top Reasons for Donations
Understanding why donors give provides insight into how to show impact for their efforts.
One of – if not the top – motivation for many donors is to create impact. But many of their other motivations are linked to this top line factor.
Donor motivations linked to overall impact include:
- Support of mission or goals: Show impact with data and reporting of how funds are used
- Trust in your organization or team: Show impact with staff stories or accomplishments
- Seeing outcomes come to fruition: Show impact by inviting donors to ribbon-cuttings, groundbreakings, events, or openings
- Personal connection: Show impact by giving donors information to share with their contacts and on social media
- Sense of belonging: Show impact by associating donors with others in the organization with greater roles or board service, ability to join or create a giving circle, or volunteering
- Tax benefits: Show impact with an annual giving letter that notes your tax-exempt status and the donor’s overall contribution.
The most important thing to remember is this: Donors who don’t see the impact of their contributions will stop giving.
Seeing the impact of fundraising isn’t just a motivation for new donors. It’s what maintains and sustains relationships with current donors.
How to Show Donor Impact
Use your website, email, and other materials to show donor impact with every communication.
Create a donor area on your website for donor impact reports and other specialized information. A special location can make donors feel special and they always know where to look if they can’t find a handout or emailed report.
The donor impact page of your website can be public or accessed by login-only based on the information you plan to distribute. There’s a strong case for a public donor impact page, because it can provide additional data and incentive for new givers to make their first donation.
There are plenty of other ways to show donor impact as well. (Some of them may be things you are already doing.)
Use powerful visuals – images and video – that show the impact of donations in action. Who or what did funds help? Can you document before and after in images? Show how fundraising dollars make a difference in your mission.
Collect testimonials from people or other organizations that receive a benefit on behalf of your fundraising efforts. Let them tell the story of how your nonprofit contributed to their success.
Connect monetary amounts to direct impact. This is a common strategy that you’ve probably seen on commercials noting how “just $1 per day” can help a homeless animal or hungry child. Break down some of the things your organization does and show exactly what certain funding amounts can pay for.
Invite donors to volunteer as part of your mission to see it in action. Don’t think of it as an additional ask; volunteerism can connect donors to your actual mission and work. Donors who are motivated to be a part of something will value a connection to seeing their financial impact in action.
Tell your organization’s story completely and often. You are a lot closer to the work and mission than most donors. You know it closer than they do. Remember to break it down and share your mission, cause, and impact frequently.
Share on social media, send regular impacts to your email list, and keep your website updated with current activities and goals.
Impact is also evident through nonprofit best practices and reporting.
- File an Tax each year. This ensures that your organization is in compliance with Financial regulations and is a legitimate nonprofit.
- Prepare an annual report. There’s a lot of credibility that comes with a document that includes financial information, project reports, and appreciation for everyone that has contributed each year.
- Post a fundraising thermometer with campaigns to show goal progress.
- Acknowledge donations and supporters with donor letters that include donation amounts and necessary tax information including your Registration number and legal business name and contact information.