8 Insights Into Donor Behaviors & Values from the Donor Loyalty Study

How can your nonprofit provide more meaningful supporter experiences?

By eleventy marketing group

Donor Loyalty Study

According to the 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Report, the average donor retention rate in 2015 was 46%. That means less than half of all donors who supported an organization did so again.

More troublingly, this number has remained below 50% for the last decade.

Retention is a topic on the minds of many (if not all) of today’s nonprofits. What drives donor loyalty? What compels donors to give in the first place and what makes them come back to support the organization again?

Another recent report, the Donor Loyalty Study from Abila, seeks to help organizations answer these questions by providing a detailed look at specific attitudes and behaviors of donors.

In today’s post, we’ll look at a handful of notable findings from this study and what your nonprofit can learn from them.

Key Findings on Giving, Volunteering, and Communication from the Donor Loyalty Study

The Donor Loyalty Study presents survey findings from a sample of 1,136 donors in the U.S., across all age groups, who made at least one donation to a nonprofit in the past 12 months.

Here are eight standout stats on donor actions and perceptions revealed in the study…

1. Top three reasons donors give to organizations:

  • 59% I am passionate about the cause
  • 45% I know that the organization I care about depends on me
  • 33% I know someone affected by their cause

Main reasons individuals donate to nonprofits

2. Top ways donors contributed to nonprofits over the past 12 months:

  • 56% Donated goods and services
  • 44% Donated money through a check in the mail
  • 40% Donated money through their website
  • 27% Bought products that support them

How individuals supported nonprofits (past 12 months)

3. 74% of people say they are more likely to donate to a nonprofit after attending an event

4. 73% of people say they are more likely to donate after volunteering

How likely volunteers and event attendees are to make a donation

5. Individuals value volunteer opportunities that:

  • 94% Make an impact on others’ lives
  • 91% Are well-organized
  • 87% Teach them about the impact the organization is making
  • 83% Make clear how what they are doing while volunteering matters
  • 80% Are personally rewarding

What makes individual feel valued when volunteering?

6. The recognition efforts donors have the most positive reactions to:

  • 69% Personalized thank you email
  • 67% Personalized thank you note sent to home
  • 62% Sending information about specific programs related

Donor reactions to recognition from nonprofits

7. 71% of donors say personalized notes from nonprofits make them feel more engaged vs. 15% who find it to be creepy

How personalization makes donors feel

8. Donors have the most positive reactions to donations being used for:

  • 92% Directly helping those in need
  • 79% Setting up events that help deliver on the nonprofit’s mission
  • 78% Setting up events that raise funds for the nonprofit

Reactions to how donations are used

My Generation: Why Age Must be Take Into Account

The study notes that the things that drive donor loyalty are not “one size fits all”. While there are commonalities, what donors want and value from a nonprofit is different for different audiences—specifically related to age groups.

The generations give differently, participate differently, communicate differently, and want different things. This makes perfect sense since we look at the world much differently through 25-year-old eyes than we do through 65-year-old eyes.

The Donor Loyalty Study provides this great graphic summarizing key findings on how the generations differ in their actions, motivations and preferences:

Generational breakdown of how donors support nonprofitsDiscovering and Defining the Roles of Individual Donors

More than anything, the findings in the Donor Loyalty Study point to the idea that supporting nonprofits is a personal experience. As the study notes, “The top three drivers are very much about the individual experience of the donor, rather than a grander purpose or vision.”

The key to building donor loyalty is recognizing the need people have to feel like a part of the larger whole as an individual. That doesn’t mean simply using first names or regurgitating data points (you recently attended x event…). It means recognizing the unique preferences and goals of your donors.

How do you do that? You ask them. Imagine if you asked questions related to the information above to all your donors, so you know things like:

  • What drove you to support our organization?
  • How do you want to be involved?
  • Do you like to receive personalized communication?
  • What kind of impact do you want to make?

It may seem like an elaborate undertaking to find this out about all your donors. But it can be done—and having this information can be incredibly valuable.

It will enable you to create personal relationships and give your supporters individual roles. It will give your supporters a higher stake in your cause, work, and organization. And, perhaps most importantly, it will make it more difficult for donors to walk away on a whim without looking back.

You can download the full Donor Loyalty Study here. We highly recommend you do.