Live From AFP: Donors Prove It’s All About Them

March 21, 2016       Paul Clolery      

In case you were going back and forth on the concept, yes, for many donors it is all about them. The three top answers to why people give money, versus time or straight advocacy:

• I am passionate about the cause – 59 percent
• I know that the organization I care about depends on them (donations) – 45 percent
• I know someone affected by their cause – 33 percent

Passion about the cause was the top reason for giving in every age group except matures where they like being depended on more than being passionate about the cause. There was an as much as 29 percent difference between the age groups when it came to wanting to be depended on.

These are some of the results from the 2016 Donor Loyalty Study released during the annual Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in Boston by software firm Abila. They surveyed during February 1,136 donors in the United States who said that they made at least one donation during the previous 12 months.

Just as important as what the donors do is how they are engaged with organizations. The top method (56 percent) was donating goods and services, such as clothing. How they give money was pretty even at writing a check (44 percent) and donating through a website (40 percent). Volunteering came in fourth at 36 percent and advocacy work at 29 percent. Respondents were asked to answer all that applied so the percentages will exceed 100 through the 16 engagement methods.

Of the 44 percent who said that they donated through a check in the mail during the previous 12 months:
• 31 percent were Millennials;
• 38 percent were Gen Xers;
• 52 percent were Boomers; and,
• 65 percent were Matures.

Meanwhile, of the 40 percent who said that they donated through a website during the previous 12 months:
• 39 percent were Millennials;
• 41 percent were Gen Xers;
• 41 percent were Boomers; and,
• 31 percent were Matures.

Some 93 percent of donors said that they are confident that organizations they support are spending money wisely and 52 percent trust organizations to use money where it is most needed.

More than half of donors (57 percent) want to hear from a favorite charity on an at least monthly basis, according to study results. But, don’t waste their time with information about which they care little.

“Content is not just king, it’s money. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they might stop donating to an organization based on poor content, said Rich Dietz, director of fundraising strategy for Abila. “We need to pay as much attention to website and email content as we do to direct mail.”

Donors found a short YouTube video, a short letter or online article and a short, self-contained email as the easiest communication for them to consume. The order was reversed when it came to the most effective in communicating information.

Communication most likely to keep donors engaged was a short letter or online article, posts on Facebook and a short, self-contained email.

To get a copy of the complete report, go to