Setting the Bar on Donations

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Partner & Chief Creative Officer
Feb 15, 2011

I'm sure we've all been subject to the email blasts, direct mailers and lovely dinnertime phone calls by our respective alma maters or random charities asking for a small donation. As the recession slows, more people are beginning to open their pocketbooks, but they are typically only moving the meter on organizations that directly help those in need. This is a fundamental shift from the days of faceless causes and overflowing discretionary funds.

Case in point: in DC I worked with the Breast Cancer Society to help raise money for their discretionary fund. Our first campaign brought in $500 with most of the money coming from our own donations. We quickly learned that people aren’t moved by a “general fund.”

“Will you donate to the Breast Cancer society?”
-“What’s it going towards?”
“The Breast Cancer Society.”

This was promptly followed by a dial tone or the back of someone's head as they walked away.

So we changed our approach and pitched that every $85 donated paid for a mammogram for an underprivileged single mother. We saw a 400% increase in donations. Now people could wrap their heads around what they were giving to, and the same folks that gave $5 or $10 to the general fund were now sponsoring a full mammogram. The key is asking for small amounts that make an immediate difference.

“Will you donate to the Breast Cancer Society?”
-“What’s it going towards?”
“A mammogram for an underprivileged single mother.”
-“No thanks!”
“Really? All I need is 10 more dollars to get one more mammogram.”

…followed by the sound of their wallets falling open. When people know that their contribution is going to be the one that makes a real difference, they are all about sharing the love.

All successful donation strategies have three things in common:

Transparency: Let your donors know exactly where their money is going. The more specific, the better. You aren't just collecting for an animal shelter, you are raising money to pay for food and bedding for the fluffy, little puppies—it's much more compelling for me to think my money is feeding starving animals than to imagine paying for new carpet in the break room.

Make it Social: When someone donates, they should be able to let people know. People love to be recognized, especially when they've done something altruistic like donate money. So make donors feel warm and fuzzy by publicly thanking them via your social platforms. With some luck, you'll get some friendly competition of who can be the most generous.

KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid. Leverage new technology to make it easy for your donors to give. Nothing kills the spirit of giving more than a long, complicated form. If you can’t donate from a bar, then it’s not easy enough.

And since you asked, Integrity is currently working on a new donation system that can help universities and nonprofits move the meter on hyper-targeted giving. And yes, it will work from a bar.

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