Types of Donors and How to Appeal to Them

By Aria Love Jackson

75% of all individual donations come from the wealthiest 30% of society. But how and why do they choose where to donate?

How well do you know your donors? And I don’t mean personally. Do you know what or how much you can reasonably expect from them? Why do they donate to your organization or cause in the first place? Research conducted in 2011 by Money For Good  has shown that there are six common different types of donors. Let’s review each and see how best to appeal to them.

1. Repayer – This donor has a personal connection to you organization. Whether its to a religious, educational or other institution they donate to you because you have impacted their life or the life of a loved one. They usually tend to be your true believers (motivated by loyalty and gratitude) and they just ‘get it’ because they have a personal experience with you.  They stay consistently involved with your organization through event attendance, email newsletters, etc. Though you don’t necessarily need to pull out the big guns to ‘impress’ this donor type, you don’t want to forget about them either! Keep them ‘in-the-know’ with scheduled contact, invite them to see what you’re doing, and try to extend their positive experience with your organization!

2. Casual Giver – This group gives to well-known organizations because its easy and uncomplicated. Their donations are typically small and irregular. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that all donors start as casual givers and have the potential transform into the other donor types. Regardless, the key to the casual giver is simplicity. To make the donation process smooth and easy-to-navigate, clearly post a donation link/button on the homepage of your website, give them multiple ways to donate,

3. High Impact – High-impact donors give to causes they feel are overlooked and organizations that are doing the most good. They want to help spur or continue the change/movement that’s needed. You can expect these donors to see social change as a priority, on national and local levels. A prime example is those who donate to Humans of New York campaigns, which range from sending Brooklyn, NY kids on a tour of Harvard, ending forced labor in Pakistan, and assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy. Because these donors are not highly and regularly committed, they respond well to emotional appeal.

4. See The Difference – Connected to their communities, these donors support local charities and where they can see tangible evidence that their contributions make a difference. At times, it can seem like donating is a way of fulfilling a purpose in their life to help others and to reinforce their community. Unlike high impact donors, they are highly committed as a result of being residents and workers within the community. As a result, a rational appeal will work best. They will want to weigh all of the evidence and make an informed decision. Statistics, graphs, public opinion, and personal experiences will be the foundation of these donors’ decisions.

5. Personal Ties – Last, but not least, donors are more likely to donate when they know some who works for or runs the organization. Giving is contagious and being surrounding by someone who is connected to a charitable organization might influence and spur someone to donate. Sometimes potential donors are blissfully ignorant to the impact an organization can have or may feel that the amount they can afford to give may be insignificant. When they hear personal anecdotes and gain a behind-the-scenes looks at an organization’s influence and continued potential, they are inspired to give.

Of course, there are mixes of donor types, additional types of donors we didn’t cover, as well as variables, financial, personal, moral, ethical, etc., that factor into where and why a donor contributes. Admittedly, very few non-profits, or any organization for that matter, will appeal to each type of donor. But understanding how each group operates is the first step to a successful fundraising campaign.

This should go without say, but remember to always thank your donors and be transparent with them. To eliminate any barriers to donation, clearly state who benefits from your organization’s work, how the money they donate will be used, and don’t solicit for them too frequently. Tailor your message to the type of donor you want to target. Tell your story and show them why your cause is relevant to them. Do that, are your chances at being successful increases greatly.

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