Three New Studies You Need to Know About
The Lilly School of Philanthropy recently released three new study components as part of its excellent research series “The Giving Environment.” The findings see the school’s esteemed researchers provide a better understanding of what makes donors “tick” in today’s world. These new releases specifically build on their documentation of a significant, continual drop in individual donors’ charitable contributions since 2008. Thank goodness that someone’s paying attention—and taking a hard look at how donors think and feel.
Here’s a great quote from Dr. Una Osili, Associate Dean of the school:
“Our newest findings make it unmistakably clear that donors not only want to understand the impact of their gifts but value organizations that intentionally foster meaningful relationships with their donors. While such donor expectations are not new, our research suggests donors have increasing expectations for how organizations build connections with them and communicate the scope of their impact.”
What follows is a summary of what they found. Their findings validate and add context to many topics we’ve discussed here at Philanthropy 451:
Donors want meaningful, personal connections with nonprofits, and those connections (or the lack thereof) are a major factor in determining their giving. This seems to offer some proof that fundraisers would be wise to focus on authentic relationships with their donors as opposed to the much more common transactional encounters.
For more on how to build meaningful relationships, check out my previous newsletters here and here.
Communicating fundraising messages that evoke “a positive sense of connection” are the most effective. As “The Giving Environment’s” summary explains, effective communication will “induce an empathic and/or moral response without also inducing strong negative feelings of sadness or guilt.” Very different from many of the solicitations that have been used for the last several decades.
The study also found that video was a very effective communication channel compared to other types of communication with prospective donors. In this case, “the video tested generated a 43% increase in the connection rate among its viewers.” It’s important to note, though, that the content and the medium of video combined to create an effective message. Video’s great (I suggest it for thank you messages to many donors), but the technology alone won’t do the trick.
Donors want to understand the impact of a nonprofit’s work. As the report states, “…a message that shows the impact of a nonprofit’s work draws people in and causes them to want to connect. Importantly, showing the impact was also effective for people who indicated that they had not made a donation to any charitable cause in the last 12 months.”
Different people often respond differently to the same message. In these studies, age and gender made a big difference relative to donor responses. It’s important to note this and to use this finding to test (ideally formally) your fundraising solicitation’s messages. In addition, noting that even after taking into account age, gender, and other factors, individuals can still differ in their reception to messaging — because they’re individuals.
If you’re not already a subscriber to the Lilly School’s wonderful and helpful publications, do check them out here.
I’m Saving Giving by providing a clear path to success, supported by data, statistics, and interviews. You can find more great newsletters like this one here on Philanthropy 451, in my bestselling book, Philanthropy Revolution, or on socials at Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.