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Credibility Gap & Giving Donors a Choice

Yesterday’s donors, those from my generation and the generation before me, placed great trust in established institutions, many of them nonprofits. People sent gifts and simply trusted that the organization was going to put the money to good use. Starting back in the 60s people were faced with what has been called a credibility gap. It started with the federal government and extended to all of society’s major institutions. People who grew up in this era learned not to trust these so-called hallowed institutions.

Today, donors are increasingly demanding a greater voice in how their donations are put to use. And these donors encompass just about all age groups up to about 60.

That’s why giving donors choices is so important.

There ar 4 main dimensions that may enter into your donors’ or prospects’ decision making: program, location, channel and intermediary.

Program – This refers to choice of program. Though many nonprofits resist offering choices because earmarking funds for specific programs is problematic, I have found that many donors choose to let the nonprpofit decide how the funds will be used when offered the option.

Location – Of at least equal concern to donors is where theor funds will be used. Many only want to support locally. Their concept of charity is that it begins and ends at the local community level. Having said that, there are also those donors who are concerned with the Big Picture. They are desirous of having a nationwide or global impact and tend to look for causes that address the biggest issues.

Channel – As technology continues to evolve, donors are developing new communication habits. A direct mail donor of ten years ago may only want to give online today., Allow him that option. Another donor who previously only gave via your website may decide to be responsive to direct mail pieces or phone calls. The point is that today’s donors have incorporated many channels into their day-to-day lives—email, telephone, mobile, for example, and collectively, they use more than one channel to connect—or at least want to. Learn those preferences and offer your donor choices that will maximize the chances of getting the gifts you need and deserve.

Inrtermediary – I’m willing to bet that none of your donors think that they’re supporting your organization. I’m also willing to bet that they bellieve their helping to support the people you’re helping. They view you as the link to the donors. Your job is to connect donors with those who are the beneficiaries of the gifts – remember that.

What is your experience when you give donors choices? Are they appreciative that you allow them to choose how their gift will be used? Or, do they trust that you will make wise use of their gifts?

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