MarketSmart, LLC | Should your donors be given a chance to "tip" your organization? | MarketSmart, LLC |

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Should your donors be given a chance to “tip” your organization?

Fundraising overhead cost selectorAre you confused by that headline? Here’s what I mean:

I think it would be interesting for us to test allowing donors the opportunity to decide how much of their donation goes toward overhead.

Similar to how you tip a waiter, why not allow the donor the choice between several overhead support options? Maybe we should point out that fifteen percent is what’s recommended. But they can give more or less. It’s their choice!

Next to the tipping options, why not include links to content about your organization’s management philosophy, its impact and 990?

I think they’ll probably give more than 15% if your nonprofit explains the need for overhead effectively, how well the money will be managed, and the results/impact that can be realized.

Allowing the donor to decide how much to invest in overhead is fair. It gives them control. It provides transparency and proves integrity.

What do you think? Is it worth a try? Should we encourage “tipping”? 


Related Posts:

>> What fundraisers can learn from restaurants and waiters
>> Do people prefer when others pay for a nonprofits’ administrative costs?


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  1. Marguerite June 19, 2017 Reply

    intriguing idea… will be interesting to see if nonprofits try it….and what the results might be!

  2. Karen June 19, 2017 Reply

    Agree: interesting concept. But what if it was the other way around, and it was explicitly stated in fundraising materials that 15% (or 20%, or whatever % it costs your organisation to do its work) of your donation goes towards managing those programs? So if people wanted to give more to needy children, they know what it would cost to do so?

    • marketsmart June 19, 2017 Reply

      Ditto Karen. Nonprofits could A/B test both ideas to see which one results in more revenue.

  3. William June 19, 2017 Reply

    I’m torn by this creative idea, Greg. I like your thought process on transparency, stewardship of resources, even need. I also like addressing what is sometimes the elephant in the room. At the same time, overhead is indeed a direct, basically inescapable part of the mission. We (nonprofits) need to do a better job of including overhead in the cost of many of our programs and being open and unashamed about it.

    • Author
      Greg Warner June 19, 2017 Reply

      I understand your feelings William. Thanks for contributing.

  4. Tom Ahern June 19, 2017 Reply

    I just made a $500 gift to help sponsor a friend going on a mission to Kenya. The online form attached a $40 processing fee; but made the fee optional, at my discretion. It was nicely phrased as well. “Sure, why not?” was the entirety of my anguished decision-making process. I wanted to send $500, not $460. Speaking as a donor, I like tipping in charity. It seems adult (whatever that means).

    • Author
      Greg Warner June 19, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Tom. Glad to hear someone is using the concept and you responded positively.

  5. I think that adding a percentage to cover overheads is a good idea, but don’t call it a tip. That puts giving in the realm of for-profit rewards i.e.a payment “to improve promptness”. Make it transparent and relative to a non-profit need.

  6. Joe Weiland March 16, 2018 Reply

    As a career restaurateur, my philosophy on tipping is simply, ” Always appreciated, never expected”. This simple philosophy lets those distribute their money as if in a larger context, the “social contract”.
    Joe Weiland

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