Losing Individual Donors is a Problem for Nonprofits—DonorSearch has the Answer

         An increasing percentage of stakeholders in the nonprofit economy are waking up to a major crisis. Individual giving is down. Way down. The reason? The decline in giving is documented in black ink—it’s not the hazy reading of a crystal ball. Fortunately, there are clear pathways to return America to its status as the most philanthropic culture in the world, and DonorSearch is just the partner that can help your organization achieve your fundraising goals.

         But first, more context is helpful. The scope of the problem is increasing. By 2021, the percentage of American households giving to charity dropped from 66% to less than half. Meanwhile, troubling signs remain in our post-pandemic world with the Chronicle of Philanthropy reporting this year that individual giving is expected to fall to 62.8% of overall giving from 64% in 2022.

         The threat of individual giving shrinking even more is very real. That’s why more and more leaders in the non-profit community are looking for ways to right the ship. Among them is Victoria Vrana, the CEO of GlobalGiving, a nonprofit that innovatively supports other nonprofits by connecting them to donors and companies.

         In an opinion piece for the Chronicle titled, “The Exodus of Everyday Donors Is Bad for America. Here’s How to Stop It,” Vrana lays out her strategy for reversing the downward trend in individual giving. Amongst a list featuring pooled micro-donations and using technology to create “more inclusive and accessible” giving campaigns, focusing on the donor relationship comes last on the list. In the experience of DonorSearch and its clients, this should be the other way around—success is driven by engagement and building donor relationships above all else.

         DonorSearch Senior Vice President Nathan Chappell has been consistently ahead of the curve on this issue as documented in his 2023 book The Generosity Crisis. The book provides the solution to the crisis: forming deep bonds of engagement which Chappell dubs “Radical Connection.” When your community is radically connected, they don’t consider cutting off their donations even when times are tight due to economic conditions. Instead, they ask you how they can help more. Naturally, the opposite of Radical Connection is a transactional relationship, where the connection is little more than a matter of accounting.

         To this point, Chappell explains, “When donors have a transactional relationship with your organization, they give and feel good about giving, but the thought leaves their head just as soon as they get another request to give at the next register. The connection is fleeting at best. When organizations focus on forming the type of deeper relationship we call Radical Connection, the emotional bond becomes so deep donors will go out of their way to support your organization, and oftentimes create an intergenerational culture of giving within their family that once characterized philanthropy in America.”

         It’s clear to the DonorSearch team and our growing number of clients that individual giving is not at all a lost cause. Donors and prospects alike need to feel a reason to care, especially in a world where they are deluged by endless requests for giving from all sides, whether it be at a cash register in the supermarket or on their Facebook feed.

         DonorSearch helps its clients form meaningful connections by identifying those members of your community who are most engaged with your organization and its worthy mission. Frequently, our clients are surprised at the number of engaged potential donors that exist who they’ve never had meaningful conversations with! Our data is based on advanced tools including AI and machine learning, but the entire focus is on restoring the human touch.

         DonorSearch Executive Vice President and Co-Owner Sarah TeDesco adds, “There is certainly value in transactional campaigns. After all, the technology has advanced to the point almost every nonprofit can enable donors to contribute quickly and easily. But understanding which donors and prospects are already engaged allow for a higher level of relationship building—like sending out personal letters to start a new conversation—something very difficult to accomplish without identifying the right prospects. Understanding your current level of engagement also enables communications to be centered around the most engaging aspects of your organization.”

         DonorSearch is a family business that treats its clients like fellow members of the family, not just customers. We believe reversing the negative trends in individual giving is critical for the future of our society, and that we can play a critical role in helping every nonprofit in the country to create deeply engaged relationships with its community.

         To learn how we can help your organization to form such deep emotional relationships instead of fleeting transactional giving, please contact DonorSearch for a demo today. And if you are an experienced non-profit professional interested in helping new nonprofits build for future success every day, consider a career with DonorSearch.

Additional Resources

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