Category Archives: fundraising

What do donors care about?

In a word, donors care about passion. Your passion. Their passion.

Givers want to know and feel your passion. They experience your passion when they see how you are serving. And how your serving matches your words. When it comes to giving, it’s a good thing that givers know that you give, too. Conventions around privacy limit what we can be comfortable sharing about our own giving, but the Bible helps us out by teaching about tithing—code for a level of giving that is challenging for sure, but historically and culturally meaningful and understood by most as a level that will stretch most budgets and bless the giver as well as the receiver.

Donors care even more about their own passion. Donors are compelled to believe that the causes they support with their hard-earned cash are worthy. What builds donor passion? Donor experiences.

The latest thinking in fundraising pulls together generally accepted and commonly understood knowledge about donor motivation into a cogent body of facts and principles called Donor Experience Management, or DXM. More about this in future posts.

There is no better way for ministry leaders to build donor passion that by offering them experiences that bring them closer to the objects of their stewardship and generosity. While serving as a volunteer executive leader for a leading prison ministry, I spent a day at the country’s largest federal prison for women participating in a rally, praying with inmates, and just watching Christ at work. Over eight years of involvement with that ministry, there was nothing that came close to that experience for building my passion and alignment with the mission of that group.

Later, as an executive with a ministry to military members and families, I spent an hour one Sunday morning at one of the US Armed Forces basic training centers participating in a Gospel presentation by one of our staff members. As the trainees filed out when the session was over, I stood and shook hands, gave hugs, and said thanks while several hugged back and left a wet spot on my shirt where their tears of gratitude and joy left a thank you note. Seven years of experiences with that ministry all boil down to that one wet spot as a tangible memory of my passion for the cause.

What can you do as a ministry leader to encourage life-changing experiences for your givers?

How to increase revenue

Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.  Proverbs 11:14 (NRSV)

The wisdom of many counselors, as the Bible tells us, can be a good thing. All that counsel will be especially helpful when it boils down to some very simple ideas.

Every organization that I know of that is not fully endowed—every church, every ministry—wants to bring in more money. Much is written about increasing revenue and donations, as it should. But, actually, there are only two ways to do so:

  1. Get more customers or donors.
  2. Generate more revenue or giving per donor.

There is only one way to get more donors:

  1. Make sure you add more donors than you lose.

And finally, there are only two ways to generate more giving per donor:

  1. Increase the average gift. 
  2. Increase the frequency of the gifts.

These principles comprise all the knowledge and counsel you will ever get about increasing funding. The reason why it’s important to keep these ideas in mind is so you can test every idea, plan and program against them. If you cannot see and measure how what you or one of your counselors wants to do will get more customers or donors (net), or how it will generate more revenue per customer, then you’d better think of something else. Sounds easy? It’s not. But it is simple.

Future posts will unpack these ideas. Would love to know your reactions, and especially why you think it’s more complicated than what I’ve explained.

Think Twice, It’s NOT Alright

A recent study indicates that fundraising works better if preceded by effective planning and surrounded by solid management. Sounds obvious when you say it like this, but what wasn’t obvious is that survey data showed that donations and grants earmarked for building fundraising capacity do not show as good a return as money aimed at good management. This is worth a thought or two….

The Limited Returns on Fundraising Support for Nonprofits | Stanford Social Innovation Review.