How Donors Decide: Lessons From a Year of Exploring Donor Attitudes on Long Island
Picture Susan: a woman sitting in front of her computer at home on Long Island, New York. Stirring her tea, she eagerly navigates to the homepage of a grassroots organization in her community that helps families with childcare and school advocacy to make a $100 gift. Her fingers tap at the keyboard, and she clicks “Donate.” Immediately, she feels rewarded for having done a good deed—until she checks her email.
In her inbox, the message reads: “This is confirmation your credit card has been charged $100.” Nothing about her generosity. Nothing about the difference her gift will make. Just a receipt, like she withdrew cash or stopped at a convenience store.
Now, another surprise: Susan isn’t just any donor, she’s a mystery donor. Like a secret shopper, she was recruited to make donations to grassroots organizations so we could see how organizations treated their donors. The findings were surprising.
What we learned from our mystery donor was part of a larger research project to help grassroots organizations on Long Island with their fundraising. We tested language and donation appeals in focus groups; we surveyed donors and learned more about their giving motivations.
While this project was focused on Long Island donors and grassroots organizations, there are some useful, broadly applicable takeaways that may help strengthen fundraising for your own organization. Before you frantically start reviewing your list for a name that looks like a mystery donor, read on for lessons that will take your fundraising communications from good to great.