How to Inspire More Giving for Your Nonprofit
How do you inspire donor giving? By communicating social impact. If you get no other takeaways from this article (and we hope you do), take that. At Social Impact Solutions, we’ve got effective and comprehensive strategies to help you make that happen, but first, let’s examine some nonprofit basics:
The Goals: Larger and more consistent donations, less donor churn, and more money to aid the people you serve.
The Obstacles: One-time givers, excessive competition, donors lacking trust and understanding of your mission.
The Result: Not realizing the goals.
The Solution: Inspire more and bigger giving for your nonprofit.
The Strategy: Build trust and stimulate donor engagement. Read on; It’s easier than you think.
Trust is the Key to Unlocking Donor Giving
Two irrefutable results have risen from nonprofit research: donors want social impact data and stories of transformation. Without those, organizations lose funding, relevance, and the opportunity to acquire future donors, according to a webinar by iDonate and Social Impact Solutions. Let’s start with a quick definition of each.
Social Impact Data – Measurements of the life-changing impact resulting from your outputs. Your outputs are the resources or services you provide: food, medicine, clean water, healthcare, housing, etc. Output metrics are the numbers: 10 meals served per day to malnourished children, 25 women receiving prenatal care, 45 water purification wells installed, etc.These output metrics matter, but what donors really care about are your outcomes – the social impact your programs have on the people you serve. For example: weight gain and improved health for children, reduced mortality rates for pregnant women and infants, fewer water-born illnesses. That kind of data shows positive life transformations, and that’s the social impact donors want to see. If you want to build trust, do this.
Stories of Transformation – Numbers are great, but stories are powerful. They humanize the numbers, giving them names, personalities, and heart. By telling stories of individuals impacted by your nonprofit’s work, you elicit emotions that foster empathy. Additionally, you enhance the trust you began developing with data. For example, introduce donors to 7-year-old Sangeeta, who had never walked or attended school due to an untreated leg deformity. Using donor funds, ABC Nonprofit provided physical therapy and a walker. Now Sangeeta can go outside, play with friends, and get an education. She dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor who treats kids with disabilities.
Watch the Magic Happen
Combine these two elements, and you’ve got data-driven storytelling – the magic that will simultaneously pull heartstrings and satisfy donors’ desire for information. Weave your data into stories of transformation or use it in creative charts and infographics. Create an annual impact report that includes all of this, plus photos so donors can see the faces of those impacted by the money they provided.
But don’t stop there. Once you’ve nudged their minds and hearts with data, stories, and photos, let them know there are greater things in store. Share your plans for the future, and be sure to include strategies and data so your goals are realistic, not pipedreams. Anyone can say they want to provide impoverished kids with a good education, but when you explain your plan for building a school, with timelines, classroom sizes, number of teachers, and estimated project cost, people pay attention. They see a clear picture, a well-planned goal instead of a fantasy. And…they see how their money can build that school, provide kids with an education, and lay the foundation for a better future. That’s the difference between a donor feeling like an ATM or a partner who wants to do even more to give those children a better life.
Chances are, You’re Already Halfway There
The reality is, you’re probably creating a much bigger impact than you realize. Donors simply want to know what it is and their role in partnering with you. A study conducted by Social Solutions showed 97% of foundations surveyed said impact data is the number one reason they give to nonprofits. Another study showed ⅔ of funders claim positive outcomes are the best indicator of a legitimate nonprofit.
The National Council of Nonprofits and its state association network agrees, stating they “encourage nonprofits to embrace a culture that supports evaluating the difference your nonprofit is making,” according to Evaluation and Measurement of Outcomes article on its website. “This requires first identifying ‘what does success look like?’ Then, you need to make a plan that will get you there and collect information along the way to evaluate whether your nonprofit is actually getting closer to success.”
Attracting Millenials and Gen Z
This information is particularly important to Millenials and Gen Z, who view themselves as agents of impact. According to the Millennial Impact Report, people in these generations are looking for partners to help them create that impact. This aligns well with the goals of many nonprofits who are looking for ways to attract younger donors. But people in these generations are:
- Tech savvy
- Information saturated
- Living in a world full of scams
- Motivated to give after a news event or crisis
The good news? Once on board, they are three times more likely to advocate for your organization than their older peers, according to an article by Philanthropy News Digest. But first they want to see social impact data before trusting a nonprofit enough to support it. Philanthropy News Digest says acquiring and sharing this information on your website is crucial to attracting these younger donors.
“Gen Z and millennial donors say the most important factor in deciding whether or not to donate to an organization is what they learn on its website,” the article states. “Make sure your website prominently features impact statistics, easy ways to donate, and personal stories from those your organization serves.”
The Long and Short of it
Metrics are the stepping stones that lead to social impact data. You’ll need those numbers to build on as you work toward gathering information that illustrates the short and long term transformations resulting from your organization’s mission. Remember what we said at the beginning: outputs matter, but they’re not nearly as important as outcomes. Donors want to see lives transformed, and want to know their money made those transformations happen.
An excellent strategy is to start your measurement process by using the Theory of Change, a concept that requires you to start at the end. Theory of Change illustrates how and why a desired change is expected to happen. What are the results you hope to achieve? At minimum, you should be looking at long-term goals, 3-5 years out. From there, work backwards to figure out what it will take to attain those goals. If you want to see a 30% decrease in child malnutrition at the three year mark, figure out the programs and metrics that will get you there.
Once that’s done, you can move onto the good stuff: social impact. Measure the outcomes of your efforts and how they track with reaching the goal. For a program targeting child malnutrition, those metrics would illustrate weight gain, the reduction in childhood illnesses, the increase in kids attending school, and higher grades. You may even want to include parents being able to work because their children are in school. Healthier children eventually lead to a healthier community and stronger economy. And guess what? You can track those metrics, too!
The further you take your measurements, the more interested donors become. Just be careful not to belabor your Operations team with too many metrics. Find the metrics that matter most for your organization, measure them, and then report on them. Having a long term plan and a way to measure it shows you’re committed to your mission. Do not be surprised when you inspire funders you never thought would be interested in you. They are looking for how you’re measuring short and long term outcomes. The measurements don’t have to be perfect or outstanding, they just have to show commitment.
What’s in it for Everyone?
Measuring, reporting, and marketing social impact creates a ripple effect that washes over everyone connected with your nonprofit.
For your organization: It builds trust and engages donors, so you experience bigger and more consistent donations. It opens doors to different kinds of funders who want to partner with a trustworthy nonprofit. Say hello to foundation funding, government grants, high network donors, and family foundations.
For staff and volunteers: Seeing data and data-driven stories makes them feel like an important cog in your organization’s wheel. They know they are part of something bigger than themselves because they see the changes taking place. Knowing you are playing a role in transforming lives is the best motivation to continue the good work you’re doing and explore ways to do it even better.
For your donors: They become heroes. Their generosity has improved the quality of life for someone, or for a whole community, and that euphoric feeling inspires giving. Not only will they want to do more, they’ll also want to tell others about the amazing work “their” nonprofit is doing, which lays down a welcome mat for potential donors.
For the people you serve: All three of the above-mentioned results translate to a win for the people served by your programs. Increased funding means they will continue to reap the benefits of your nonprofit’s work, with the hope that someday they won’t need the resources or services you provide. It also means even more people will experience a higher quality of life and, hopefully, each of them will be able to help someone else. Our broken world has no shortage of people in need, so the more funds you can muster, the more you can do to patch up the fragmented parts.
A Word of Thanks
Donors, like all of us, are grateful for gratitude. A word of thanks goes a long way in retaining donors and making them feel appreciated. Whether someone donates $1 or $1,000,000, they should absolutely receive a thank you with some mention of how their contribution is making a difference. It can be an email, text, phone call, or snail mail note. The format doesn’t matter, but make no mistake, the gesture matters massively. Ensuring that each donation is followed up with a thank you message is one surefire way to reduce donor churn.
Take the Next Step
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