Sunday, September 30, 2012

Donors Care About IMPACT

Donors care about impact.

That's not particularly surprising. It makes sense that donors want to know that their donation has made an appreciable difference for the nonprofit they are supporting. What has not been so clear is exactly what sort of information does the donor consider valuable in judging impact?

According to a new report from GuideStar USA, Inc. and Hope Consulting entitled Money For Good II, if charities can compellingly communicate impact to donors, serious money could move to the most effective institutions -- as much as $15 billion!

The report addresses these important issues:
  • What information do donors want and how and where do they want it?
  • How can you meet the demand for information, including specific tools and initiatives?
  • How other nonprofits are already doing this and the rewards they are reaping.
  • A view of the future of charitable giving and the nonprofit sector.
What do donors want?

According to the report, 88% of donations go to a nonprofit a donor has given to at least once before. Donors are comfortable with "the familiar" and need to trust the institutions they support. But far more funds could be directed to nonprofits if donors had easy access to better information. It is interesting to note, many donors don't take the time to research the nonprofits they are considering supporting.

Individual Donors Research Some Causes More Than Others 
(Chart shows the percentage of donors that research various nonprofits)

According to the research all donors want to know:
  • The financial picture, including how an organization spends its money
  • That the nonprofit is legitimate
  • The basics of the organization -- its mission, approach, and make up
  • The breadth and depth of the cause
  • The nonprofit's impact
Most of the above information is relatively accessible. But  the researchers believe information about a nonprofit's impact is grossly neglected.

Why is this so? It would seem that the impact of the work of the nonprofit would be a number one communication focus for all institutions. Unfortunately, this is too often not the case. Are nonprofits too busy? Are their resources stretched so thin they have no time to do the research and disseminate the information? Probably.

The report is emphatic that the nonprofit must make an internal commitment to collecting information about impact.

Collect that information and then communicate it to your donors through a multitude of channels -- websites, emails, newsletters, solicitation letters, videos, annual reports, and social media platforms.

Again, to quote the report, when you lead with impact, you reassure your existing donors that you are using their money wisely, and you attract new donors who are looking for organizations doing the most good.

The report includes a helpful Charting Impact Tool to begin assessing what impact information you should be communicating to your donor. It includes a series of questions, ways to answer, and reasons why such as: 
  • Question: What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
  • How to answer: Define how your organization will change the world for the better.
  • Why it matters: Donors want to know what you stand for. 
As well as:
  • Question: What are your strategies for making this happen?
  • How to answer: Explain what you are doing to accomplish your goals.
  • Why it matters: Donors need to understand, clearly, what you do.
(Check out the other questions and responses in the Charting Impact Tool. You'll find it quite helpful as you collect your impact information.)

Charity rating services and research resources such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, Network for Good, and the Foundation Center are all playing a role in providing third party, non-partisan information on nonprofits for the potential donor. And although emotion plays an important role in charitable decisions, data from these sources help satisfy the donor's need for the rational aspect of the giving process.

Take the time to collect those impact stories, the third party endorsements, the data that shows your effectiveness. Make it easy for donors to get the information they want. Don't make them dig for it.

Earn some of that $15 billion in available gift revenue. You deserve it!

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