Unsolicited Advice About Unsolicited Gifts
Have you ever given someone a gift “just because”? Most people have, and most, if not all, would agree that it feels great to do so.
More specifically, have you ever sent a donation to a nonprofit that hasn’t solicited you?
I have, and it feels great to give someone (or an organization) a gift that they didn’t see coming. I thought it was strange, though, that when I gave those unsolicited donations, I was either questioned or ignored by them. It seemed like the nonprofits I had given to were genuinely confused. One of them emailed me and asked who I was, how I found the organization, and why I decided to give. (It didn’t feel like a “get to know you better” communication — it felt more like an interrogation.)
Until I researched this a bit more, I thought that I was part of a minuscule percentage of donors who give money without being formally asked. But then I found some research suggesting that I’m not such a rare bird. For example, the 2019 Burk Donor Survey found that 75% of the study’s 12,000 (highly educated) donors reported that “some or all” of their charitable gifts in 2018 had been unsolicited, meaning they were not a result of a direct appeal or solicitation.
Now I feel like I’m in good company.
So I looked for more research and found that, aside from the above report, unsolicited donations just aren’t studied so much. I’m guessing the reason is that unsolicited can also mean “uncontrollable”, and if you can’t control, you can’t plan, and so on.
The study suggests that a significant portion of charitable giving is driven by donors' personal interests, connections, and motivations, rather than by direct appeals or solicitations from organizations.
I believe that those unsolicited donations were also driven by great marketing and communication. This includes a professional and compelling (and functional) website, great storytelling, and messaging that inspires trust and confidence in the donor. Without all that, donors will look elsewhere. For me, if you don’t have all of the pieces on the above list, I’d rather give to a smaller, newer nonprofit that does have them. Also, the larger and more established the organization is, the higher my expectation is that the organization will have a professional website and a compelling, succinct story showing impact.
The upshot is that your overall and (hopefully) fully integrated marketing and communications strategies all influence a donor’s giving (or not giving.) Make sure it’s all done right.
And finally, if you receive an unsolicited donation, consider it your lucky day — or a day where your astute and strategic marketing, combined with a bit of luck, maybe — paid off. Don’t forget to thank that donor!
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