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Answering Donors’ Three Big Questions

Monday, January 29, 2018
Guest Writers
Lelia MacDonald
Person using red colour flare in arctic

Donors have many questions when making their donation decisions - but there are three big ones. To help them make their decision, make sure all of your marketing tools answer these questions.

The Three Questions

1.  Why should I donate to you?

Donors want to know “Why should I care about your cause? Why is your charity a good way to address the cause?” and “Why do you deserve my donation more than the other 86,000 charities in Canada?”

When I work with clients through MAS, we typically create a page on their website called “Why we are unique”. There we list all the major reasons in easy-to-read bullet points, bolding the keywords. For charities that are not unique and are one of many service providers in a given area, consider highlighting your internal efficiency or explain the scope and magnitude of your cause.

2.  What is your track record?

The next question in the donor decision-making process asks “What is the amount of good you do? What did you accomplish last year? Prove to me that you are worthy of my donation.”  

One way to address this quickly and effectively is to create a page on your website called “Our Impact 2017”. Then list all of your external metrics - number of meals served, clients supported, trees planted, etc. Think of this page as the “resume” for your charity.  List all of your accomplishments that will “earn their donation”. 

For charities that have a long track record: consider keeping last year as a stand-alone section and then consolidate your accomplishments from the previous five years into one page called “Our impact 2011-2016”.  Resist the temptation to showcase accomplishments older than 5 years. No need to go overboard and occupy too much space on your organizational history page either.

For charities that do not have a long track record: be honest. List what you have done so far and your goals for the next one to five years. Donors can see through hype.

3.  What impact will my donation have?

“If I give you $200, what will you do with it?” Donors don’t need to know exactly what you will do with their specific donation but they want a general idea. For example, $20 will buy a mosquito net, $500 will buy a new mattress, $1,000 will pay for counseling for a family for six months. 

On your Donation page, add a list of 3-5 impacts based on price points that are above your average donation. Remember to include a stretch price point - $10,000 is rare but you never know when you’ll meet a major donor.

Best Practices 

Research suggests

There has been fabulous research done on donor motivations in both Canada and the US. The three questions listed above are based on this research. The research also suggests key phrases that you can include in your communications, as appropriate:

  • We are small and local.
  • We make a big impact.
  • See the difference your donation can make!
  • Without us, our recipients would…
  • Pay it forward. 
  • Give back.

Be succinct

Assume that a typical viewer will spend only about 30 seconds on your website. If they want to donate, they might spend up to three minutes. You don’t have much time to communicate.

This is way it’s really important to have great navigation on your website. A viewer should be able to scan your drop-down boxes and find the answers to their three questions quickly. They should be able to understand what you do just from looking at your menu options.

Be super concise on every page. Use bullet points and bold keywords. Treat each page as a stand-alone advertisement. Help guide viewers’ eyes to the most important information. 

Copy your three answers

Now that you have the answers to the three questions on your website, copy and paste into all of your other marketing tools. This includes brochures, donor presentations, templates for donor letters, the back side of your business card, etc. 

Remember your elevator speeches too – set up role-play sessions with board members and staff so that everyone is ready to answer these questions when meeting with donors. 

Your website is the foundation to your brand. Make sure you get it right.


About the Author

Lelia MacDonald

Lelia MacDonald is a Volunteer Consultant with MAS – a pro bono management consulting charity.  For 20 years, the 50 Volunteer Consultants at MAS have helped thousands of nonprofits and charities become more efficient in governance, strategy, HR, marketing and fundraising. Lelia helps charities re-brand their websites and create fundraising plans, for free.

Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.

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Submitted by AKBAR HOSSAIN on
This is an interesting topic indeed. I did not know it earlier that donors have so many questions before executing his donations. However, these are genuine and logical.

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