This post by Jono Smith originally appeared here in the Event 360 blog.
You know the statistics well: every year, Americans donate generously–nearly $300 billion in 2011. But a new study from GuideStar and Hope Consulting argues that donors would be willing to shift $15 billion of that giving to top performing nonprofits if they had easy access to better information about these organizations. The authors came to this $15 billion figure by evaluating multiple inputs from survey data, such as: what is a donor’s loyalty to the nonprofits she supports? How willing is she to change her giving if information needs are met? How certain is that change?
More detail about the methodology, and how the $15 billion opportunity breaks out can be found in the full Money for Good II report, accessible at: www.guidestar.org/ViewCmsFile.aspx?ContentID=4718
In their study, the researchers separated “donors” into three categories: individual donors, those who advise donors, and those making grant decisions at foundations. Each of these groups makes decisions about which nonprofits to support and how much to give.
Despite some differences in behavior, all three of these donor categories (individuals, advisors, and foundation grantmakers) want similar types of information from nonprofits presented in similar ways. In fact, the researchers argue that communicating and connecting with each donor group doesn’t require a vastly different strategy or different information.
In terms of the type of information, all donors want to understand the full story of an organization, including:
- The financial picture, including how an organization spends its money
- That a 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
Some of the information donors want, such as financials, is fairly easy to come by. In fact, donors state they are able to find each of the first four items on the list without much difficulty. But donors also want information on a nonprofit’s impact, which can be very difficult to obtain.
This information—how effectively nonprofits achieve their mission—is the true “unmet need” of donors. Getting more and better information about your mission impact to donors can help you tap into the billions up for grabs each year.
These donors are not looking for obtuse quantitative measures.They are not looking for reams of specific data. Nor are they looking for simple ratings that filter out key pieces of information. They want more than a few nice stories, pictures of smiling people, and some financial ratios.
These donors want a complete picture of your organization: what you do, why you do it, how you do it, what you are learning, and what progress you are making. They want to understand your story.
The research revealed some specific steps that you can take to collect the right information, communicate it in a way that is meaningful to donors, and connect with donors to form lasting relationships. One such step involves answering five questions to help you identify the information you need to communicate the full story of your organization. They are:
- What is your organization aiming to accomplish? Define how your organization will change the world for the better. Donors want to know what you stand for.
- What are your strategies for making this happen? Explain what you are doing to accomplish your goals. Donors need to understand, clearly, what you do.
- What are your capabilities for doing this? Show donors that you have what it takes to make an impact. Donors want to know that you can achieve your goals.
- How will you know if you are making progress? Educate donors on the metrics for your cause and show how you track them. Metrics give donors confidence in your impact.
- What have and haven’t you accomplished so far? Describe how you’ve changed the world, and what you’ve learned. Donors want to understand the progress you are making.
Need help charting your impact to current and prospective donors? Email me at jsmith [at] event360 [dot] com to find out how Event 360 can help.