Never has it been more important for charities to understand the role they play in connecting donors to causes, and to clue into the fact that their role is just that. Donors on the one hand and causes on the other, are the important components – the charity/organization simply exists to facilitate that relationship. As such, it’s absolutely key for charities to be able to articulate what they need donor’s money for and what they spend it on. Fundraising effectiveness, stewardship, donor service, transparency and accountability are paramount.
According to the latest research from Professor Adrian Sargeant, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, donors are generally more committed to, satisfied with and trusting of the organizations they support. This UK study found that:
88% of donors are committed or very committed to the work of the organizations they support;
91% of donors are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of service provided by the charities they support;
91% of donors agree or strongly agree that they place high levels of trust in the organizations they support.
Amidst all of this, I want to share a happy donor story that parallels these findings in terms of donor satisfaction, trust and commitment…
“I’ve been a donor for as long as I can remember. The concept of philanthropy and helping others is a value that I grew up with and have passed along to my own children. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself in a position to give more. I probably give to about fifteen charities each year.
I achieved the rank of granny four years ago, which caused me to think about revising my will. And while the inspiration (to make changes to my will) has been there since my grandson was born, I just got around to it recently. I suspect I’m like donors everywhere when it comes to that.
I also suspect I’m like donors everywhere when I sat down to really think about the changes I wanted to make to my will. You see, when I did my first will some years ago I still had my three sons at home, there was the mortgage and their educations to consider, which meant that my will was all about taking care of them.
It was different this time. My sons are grown and out forging their respective ways in the world. They no longer need me to take care of them. So, in revising my will, my focus turned to my grandson and to causes that are important to me. Note that I said ‘causes’ not ‘charities’.
What I didn’t realize was just how much I would get from this process.
There is deep pride in the feeling that my lifetime of hard work will stretch beyond my loved ones. And there is that sense of contentment in knowing that I’ve taken care of things.
But mostly, there is the profound joy of knowing that I’m able to support causes that I care about, in such a significant way. I won’t die tomorrow (I hope) or even anytime soon, but when the time comes, my giving will make a difference.
It just felt so incredibly good, as being a donor should.
When it came to my will, I already had a few charities in mind. Two of them have been included in my giving for many years and I’m currently a monthly donor with both. The third one is a cause that touches my family in a very personal way, but I’d only started giving the year before.
They all work hard telling me about the good work they do and how they use the money I give. They actually give me examples of how they spend donations – I love that and I trust that they’re putting my gifts to good use. I like getting emails and letters in the mail, but I don’t want phone calls and I don’t want them coming to my home. Many of the charities I give to send me a survey form each year so I can tell them my communication preferences – I appreciate being asked! So far, those that have asked have listened and respected my wishes.
As part of my decision making process, I checked out their websites, wrote and asked for information, thought a lot about how I wanted to structure my giving, and I talked with my family about what I intended to do and why. I put a fair amount of work into it – it was a big commitment for me!
I continue giving to my charities of choice but I have not let them know they are in my will. I want to watch and see how things go. In the long run, I want to make sure that the charities I’ve chosen are really the best options for connecting me to the causes that I care about. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll change my mind, but I want to feel free to do so should the need arise.”
This is my own story of giving, but I suspect it’s fairly consistent with that of donors everywhere.
As a fundraiser, I urge you to find stories like this. Document them and share them with your board, your program staff, volunteers and your broader constituencies. You have them – all charities do – because every single donor in your donor file has a story to tell. And every single donor story can help you better understand how to achieve the very best results in terms of donor satisfaction, commitment and trust.