Getting More from Your Smaller Donors

It’s a new year.  2014 is here and the battle to raise sustainable support for your organization begins anew.  Some development departments and professionals are planning annual fundraising events, researching grant  opportunities, and performing other tasks to help them reach their budgetary goals.  Others are looking at investing in the newest technologies to reach more people with their stories about why they deserve support.  Most will be looking for the big money contributors:  The major philanthropists, foundations and trusts, government resources.  Many will ignore their base supporters, the little guys, the smaller donors.

According to statistics from the National Philanthropic Trust, 88% of American households gave an average of $2213 with a median of $870 in 2011.  While larger contributions from the wealthy individuals and families account for a part of that average, the majority came from people making less than $250,000 a year.  Those donors gave $10, $20, $50, or $100 here and there to the charities they supported when they could, but when you are on a tighter budget, you give what you can when you are able.

There are ways you can increase the giving of your smaller donors, and they can work for any organization, no matter how big or how small.

First, consider how you communicate with the small donor.  Do you acknowledge them and thank them for their gift in a timely manner like you do for a more substantial donor?  If the gift is given through your website, do you do more than send an automated reply acknowledging that you received their gift?  Do you put the donor on your email newsletter list to inform them of your activities and how you used their gift?  Sadly, some organizations do not take these steps for smaller donors, reserving these activities for people who give at a higher level.  You should also segment your communications with your smaller donors.  Requests for major donors will not necessarily work well with smaller donors.  Without proper engagement, you will lose the loyalty of these supporters, their gifts, and any potential support in the future.

Secondly, can you make giving easier for the donor?  Is the giving page on your website easy to use or do you make your donors jump through a maze of hoops?  Do you provide a return envelope for them to use if they prefer mail?  Have you tried a text to give program where donors can give a small gift through their cell phone bill?  Have you encouraged them to give monthly rather than annually? Twelve $10 gifts brings in a bigger gift than a one time $100 gift, and it is easier for most people to budget $5 to $25 a month than to give $50 to $250 at the end of the year during the holiday season when they are spending money on presents for loved ones or trying to pay higher utility bills in the winter.

What about employer matching gift programs?  Have you asked them to check with their Human Resource departments to see if the companies they work for will match their gifts to your organization?  Most larger companies have these programs as a benefit and they can double the size of their gifts by simply filling out a form.  It is definitely worth looking into, and it can pay off for your organization.

Another consideration is events.  Do you have formal galas with exorbitant ticket prices that are far more than your smaller donor can afford to attend?  Try having one that is more casual with a lower attendance price.  Partner with a local restaurant, theater or bar for a half night that you can advertise on your website and e-news, where a percentage of the nightly profits go to your organization.  Auction off smaller donated prizes that they can use, or sell affordable raffle tickets that they can purchase.  Don’t make a segment of your donors feel left out by excluding them.  Make some events fun and affordable so more people will come.

Last of all, have you encouraged a planned gift program for those smaller donors?  Have you asked the small donor to remember your organization in their will, or have them choose you as a recipient for memorial gifts when they pass?  Let them know they can arrange to make your charity a beneficiary in their life insurance policy. Even a small donor would like to leave a legacy for an organization they care about, if they knew how.

Increasing support from your smaller donors is an important part of the fundraising process, and ignoring them is bad for your organization’s development plan.  Show them the love they show you and help them help you as much as they can.  As I mentioned in a previous post, all donors are generous.  Philanthropy is not all about the wealthy.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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