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May 18, 2022
Donors Say Nonprofits Need to Communicate Impact of Gifts

February 13, 2022 — Events of the last two years, especially the coronavirus pandemic and movements for racial justice, have highlighted the need for nonprofits to communicate the impact of their programs and services as overall giving to nonprofits nationally has declined, according to a newly published report.

The report on understanding donor’s giving decisions, from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, based on multiple focus group studies, notes that donors “want nonprofit organizations to communicate the impact of programs and services and to be informed in more engaging and personal ways.”

Donors said they especially appreciated organizations’ efforts to present the impact of gifts and planned to continue contributing to organizations with clear and consistent communication.

Spurring the research , the school said, was a need to better understand donor motivations, especially in light of a decline of American donations to charity – from two-thirds of all households in 2000 to half of all households in 2018.

Key findings from the report can serve as a guide to nonprofit fundraising. Among them:

  • A majority of the participants indicated that they intend to keep their giving frequency and amount consistent over the next few years, but give more selectively to causes and organizations, as donors placed a higher importance on maximizing impact through giving and research as a key factor for giving decisions.

  • Being aware of an issue or the needs of an individual or organization strongly shaped giving decisions and motivated people to give in response to crises or perceived needs.

  • People shifted their giving to organizations that demonstrated impact and efficacy, which actively engaged in communication and education, and which personalized donor engagement. They appreciated organizations’ efforts to present the impact of donor gifts and planned to continue contributing to organizations with clear and consistent communication.

  • In addition to having a personal connection with organizations they support, donors said their decisions to give were shaped by personal values and prior experience with an issue.

  • While donors expressed confident that the philanthropic organizations they support would be able to make an impact with their donations, a perceived lack of impact of donors’ gifts can lead to a decline in giving.

The report suggested that a wat to increase giving and be seen as an organization donors enjoy supporting is by establishing and cultivating a personal and consistent relationship with donors through volunteer opportunities, increased digital outreach, and integrating non-financial forms of giving and engagement such as board service, community forums, and town halls.

“This cultivation is especially important for small and mid-level donors, having already been widely practiced with major donors,” the report noted.

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