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What Donors Want

Published:  10/19/2017

Adapted from “Research-Based Methods for Engaging Patients and Volunteers as Major Gift Donors” by Dawn Moore and Jennifer Alpert, a recent installment of the AHP Webinar Series.

Originally published in the October 2017 AHP Connect.

As a fundraiser, you are more than likely held accountable to a series of performance metrics as you try to engage new donors. You may be responsible for certain touchpoints, including emails, phone calls, and so on, which might be keeping you from effectively giving donors what they really want.

But are those metrics really working? And are you even focusing your efforts on the right people? You can waste a lot of time recruiting when what your organization should be focusing on is donor retention. You probably know that the 80/20 rule—that 80% of your donations will come from 20% of your donors—is no longer true. In fact, it’s not really even 90/10 anymore.

So once you’ve persuaded your donors and engaged your grateful patients—now what? What will convince them to keep donating?

According to the 2014 Burk Donor Survey, donors want three things:

The ability to designate gifts

Giving donors the ability to designate that their gift will go to a specific program, service or department, or to generate a specific result, makes them more inclined to give. Not only do they feel like they have more control, it addresses their basic need to know, “How can I make a difference?” Research does show this ability will create higher donations.

Of course, don’t take gifts with strings attached. Quid pro quo gifts are considered unethical. The ability to designate means the fundraiser will truly listen to donors and help them find the place where they want to make a difference.

Prompt, meaningful gift acknowledgement

Fundraisers used to say, “Thank before you bank,” but that’s not as easy to do in a world of digital payments!

Your acknowledgements should go out within 24 to 48 hours of receipt of the gift in the form of handwritten notes, personal emails and phone calls. Finding time for a phone call can be difficult, but you already have a built-in team in your board. If your organization hasn’t tried it already, thank you calls are a great way to generate engagement among your board members, especially from those who are hesitant to fundraise. Your thank you notes can also come from a physician, or, in the case of a grateful patient, a caregiver who interacted with the donor.

Don’t use boring, standard opening lines, such as “Thank you for your generous gift of...” Instead, seek to surprise and delight with an opener like “Imagine my surprise when I opened your card and found your gift!” And remember, do not ask for a gift in a thank you card, no matter how timely the ask may seem.

Receiving measurable results regarding their last gift

Report the impact of a donor’s last gift PRIOR to asking them again. You can do this through newsletters, social media, or other marketing outlets that you already employ, as long as you know it will reach the donor before your next ask. The message should reinforce your project’s end result—what will donors (and patients) see when we’re finished and/or successful?

To learn more about research-based, high-impact philanthropy, click here.

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