The myth of the disappearing donor

Lots of folks think donors are disappearing
While populations in the U.S. and other philanthropic countries are still increasing how can it be that donors are disappearing?

Blackbaud’s Vital Signs report found: “The number of households contributing dropped 7% from 2010 – 2015.”

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s article titled Where Are My Donors reported: “Since 2000, the percentage of households that donate has dropped in every age group. Surprisingly, people ages 51 to 60 — prime years for giving — saw the biggest percentage-point drop.”

Let’s not kid ourselves; they aren’t disappearing, they just aren’t giving.
Instead, they are spending their money elsewhere.

Many go to Starbucks each day to buy a Tall, Non-Fat Latte with Caramel Drizzle at a hefty price of $4.65. If your donors do that every day of the work week, they could be spending about $100 bucks a month or $1,200 a year on sweet coffee drinks instead of giving that money to your organization to make an impact.

That’s why your growth rate chart is probably somewhat flat while Starbucks’ growth rate chart looks like this:
Starbucks growth compared to nonprofits






Plus, those same supporters are likely spending their cash on Netflix subscriptions.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.44.54 PM






And most of them are also throwing dollars at Amazon too.
Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.38.03 PM






So since they aren’t disappearing, why aren’t they giving?
It’s really pretty simple. Our sector is getting its ass kicked (and the competition is getting more of your supporters’ share-of-wallet) because the nonprofit sector sucks at delivering value and companies like Starbucks, Netflix and Amazon are really good at delivering value. 

The value equation.
This concept is really simple: When customers/donors consider where to spend their money they weigh an outcome against its cost.

In other words, the Starbucks value proposition looks something like this:donor value proposition
That’s a lot of value for $4.65!

Your job is to provide value.
If you want to find and convert the defecting donors so they’ll give and then give again, you can’t ascribe to the ideas propagated by others. Your donors are not disappearing.

I promise you, macroeconomic statistics don’t matter. So what if the rich are getting richer or the middle class is getting hollowed-out! You can’t solicit the entire upper or middle class anyway.
What you need to worry about is your core (first) and people like them (next). Provide more value!

After all, they are only ignoring or avoiding your outreach communications because they aren’t fun, they aren’t fair, they aren’t convenient…. I could go on and on.

You can fix this problem and your supporters, program staff, board members, leadership… and especially the beneficiaries of all the donations… will be thrilled that you did.

You can help people move themselves through the consideration process for giving. But first, you must stop soliciting so much and so soon, before you’ve given to them. You must learn to give, then you’ll get.

Start by checking out this checklist for providing value. But that won’t be enough. You’ll need more than just a checklist to solve this problem.

In a couple of days, I’ll post a follow-up to this article that will explain what you can do to create more value and win. I hope you’ll read it.

Related Posts:

>>7 easy ways to provide more value to your supporters.

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Christopher Doyle
Christopher Doyle
5 years ago

Right on. Great response to the doom and gloom crowd.

5 years ago

Thanks Chris. My glass is always half FULL!

Michael J. Rosen
5 years ago

Greg, my friend, when are you going to learn? Many fundraising professionals would rather embrace an excuse rather than work toward a solution.
“Sorry, boss. We didn’t reach our fundraising goal this year. But, it wasn’t my fault. Here’s a report that shows the number of households giving is down.”
“Sorry boss. We didn’t reach our fundraising goal this year. But, it wasn’t my fault. The new tax code is responsible.”
Fortunately, there are many ways fundraisers can enhance their performance and get stronger results. The good news is that it doesn’t require a massive investment although it does require commitment.
Thank you for regularly giving folks great tips for getting better results.

5 years ago

My pleasure Michael.

Laura Waller
5 years ago

What Michael said . . .

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