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What Donors Want—but Often Don’t Get

Charities don’t do nearly enough to tell donors how their money will be used. That’s one of the striking preliminary findings from a new survey by the researcher Penelope Burk. This is the fourth year that Ms. Burke, president of Cygnus Applied Research, has conducted an online survey with thousands of donors. (See my article about last year’s findings.)

The survey asked donors “what could unleash your philanthropy at a whole new level?” Nearly half of the donors said that they had more money to give but held back. Many of them said that was largely because they had not received enough information about how past donations had been spent.

Ms. Burk is careful to say that the preliminary responses she released are not necessarily representative of the entire group of donors.  Still, fundraisers may want to take note of the comments she shared. One donor wanted “the need for funds translated into personal stories. Two charities I support have done this and it is highly effective in inspiring me to give more generously.”

The donor mentioned a letter from a nonprofit camp that highlighted stories about how young people’s lives had been changed by the organization and another one from a children’s hospital that sent a photograph of needy parents selecting holiday presents paid for with donor contributions.

“It gave me a real sense of joy because I felt I had accomplished something,” the donor wrote. Another donor was interested in “knowing that my giving produces results.” The donor described giving more to a university “when someone from the development office took me out for coffee to tell me what they have been doing with donors’ contributions. She did not ask for money. I was impressed and became a larger, more regular donor.”

Share the most-effective ways you have helped donors see the results of their gifts.

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