Charities find it harder to reach (potential) donors. They also note that even if they come in contact with a potential donor their solicitation methods fail. Most people focus on the motives of the givers to determine the important aspects for nonprofits. However, those who do not give are just as interesting and important if you want to increase the effectiveness of solicitation methods.
Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series. Each series will have one central subject; the subject of this month is ‘A changing donor’. A series consists out of several separate blogs. This is the fourth blog of the ‘A changing donor’ series. For the first blog of the series click here. For the second blog of the series click here. For the third, about the three basics of philanthropy, click here.
Don’t pass them over: the not giver
Charities could focus on the motives for giving in order to develop a solicitation method. However, a big drawback of this method is that you focus solely on those who are already giving. In other words, we forget the big group we want to come in contact with and stimulate to give: those who are not giving. A sole focus on the motives of givers might not be ideal. So what is? One option is to focus on the motives for not giving of those who are not giving. What are reasons to pass?
Philanthropy is not always connected to positive things.
A short while ago I asked people on Twitter and LinkedIn (Dutch survey) about their thoughts related to the word philanthropy. The answers (n= 28) were presented in a wordcloud. The main keywords mentioned were: money (geld), nonprofits (geode doelen), help (helpen), donation (doneren) and donor (donateur). However, some people directly connected philanthropy with a more negative word: scandals. Others typed in words related to scandals such as: Oxfam Novib and Zuckerberg. More about this can be found on the site of Rene Bekkers, click here.
Scandals and negative events have a big impact
When an organization that is supposed to be dedicated to making the world a better place it is no surprise that it triggers a feeling of distrust when they are connected with a scandal. In general negative events receive more attention from the media than positive effects. This is unfortunate for the vast majority of charities that do a lot of good, since their actions are unlikely to make it to the top of our Google news feed.
Trust, trust and well trust
Trust is bit of a vague term, it can be approached from several different perspectives. Psychologists perceive trust as a personal trait, while sociologists focus on social structures and economist connect it to decision mechanisms (McKnight & Chervany, 2000). As it happens as I work in de the field of philanthropy, i am neither and both. In philanthropy we use trust in connection with relationships: trust is essential to form a relationship and if damaged it will also damage the relationship. Of course some people are naturally more likely to trust people (focusing on the psychological perspective).
However, the economist are also right by saying that trust affects decisions: if we perceive someone as more trustworthy we are more likely to believe the information. This is an important point. Charities are asking complete strangers to believe in their cause: ‘if you give me money I will ensure it will be used to make this world a better place’. Well, they are asking for a lot of trust there, right? One way to improve on this is to increase the flow of information: charities should become more transparent about their strategies. This way a donor can decide to donate or not based on a more cognitive basis, next to a more initiative basis.
Building up a relationship
Donors these days want to do more than giving: they want to play a meaningful role by not only giving money but also time and expertise. We could say that the boarders between the different types of giving (that is money, time, expertise, goods and body material, I discussed these in my previous blog) are becoming more fluent. Earlier I described this as ‘beyond the ATM’, you can find a description of this here.
Another interesting change is an increased focus regular updates. Notice that I am talking about ‘an increased’ focus, I do not mean that previous donors did not care about this. We simply notice an increasing focus on trust, relationships and a need for information. Earlier I discussed why crowdfunding (online giving to a project that runs for a predefined period of time, like 30 days) is such an attractive funding source, since it provides donors with regular updates. With crowdfunding donors receive regular updates provided during and after the project is completed. This gives us more insight into how our money is used. The updates are provided during and after the project is funded.
The central message in this blog is that donors show a distrust towards charities, while charities build highly on trust. In order to make up for the lacking trust, charities could focus on engaging more with their (potential) donors. This can be done in two general ways: (1) increase the information flow and (2) increase the social connections. The information flow refers to an increasing need for transparency: show donors what is done with their money and what it achieved. The social part refers to an increasing focus on engaging the donors in decisions and activities: they want to give not just money but also time and expertise.
Charities find it harder to reach donors. We asked ourselves: what are reasons to pass? Why would someone decide to pass, besides the financial incentive of saving money. Some people directly connect philanthropy with a more negative word: scandals. When an organization that is supposed to be dedicated to making the world a better place it is no surprise that it triggers a feeling of distrust when they are connected with a scandal. Trust is essential to form a relationship and if damaged it will also damage the relationship. One way to improve on this is to increase the flow of information: charities should become more transparent about their strategies.
McKnight, D. H., & Chervany, N. L. (2000). What is Trust ? A Conceptual Analysis and an Interdisciplinary Model. Proceedings of the 2000 Americas Conference on Information Systems AMCI2000 AIS Long Beach CA August 2000, 346(August), 382. Retrieved from http://aisel.aisnet.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1876&context=amcis2000