Arts Organizations

Planned Giving: The Psychology of Giving

Effective donor fundraising is one the most critical factors in determining an arts organization’s immediate and long-term success. Just as you have many conversations and initiate different campaigns, your donors make their gifts for numerous reasons. Understanding a ‘donor’s psychology’ can help you communicate and interact with your supporters in a more productive and fulfilling way – to the benefit of both parties.

One reason many people support your organization is that they believe in its mission. A majority of donors give based on their personal values. For some, their decision to provide financial support is driven by carefully considered tax and estate –related planning decisions.

Individual donors’ reasons for giving will influence your conversation with them in how you position the ‘ask’, and how you build a lasting relationship with them.

Over 90% of donors give because they believe in your mission and cause, your programs and work in your community.

Why Donors Give

1. They understand your organization’s vision. Your role as artists and arts managers is to share your vision and passion with your supporters. Be open and communicate it.

2. Donors want to make a positive impact. Over 90% of donors typically give where they perceive their gift can make a difference, whether the gift is $100 or $10,000.

3. They see how their gift can make an impact. Communicating the positive wider social impact of your programs is important when encouraging donors to evaluate the impact of their giving. Different generations give differently. For example, millennials want more accountability and transparency around how their gifts are used than older donors.

4. They want to feel appreciated. This can mean different things to each donor. Their gift may bring them simple enjoyment or personal satisfaction from participating in your programs. Or, they may donate to ‘honour’ the contribution being made by a friend/family member who volunteers, contributes financially, or is actively involved in your arts programs. Such gifts may also be in memory of someone, who had a long association with you.

5. Donors feel a part of your organization. Your role is to connect the individual with your organization in a variety of ways: through an invitation to a special event or a personal note of thanks. Their gifts are particularly personal and warrant a personal response with a call, personalized letter, or invitation to visit. (Handwritten letters are especially effective whenever possible).

6. They may act on impulse. Fond memories and unexpected conversations and events often have an emotional effect, triggering a gift.

Your role is to raise the profile and emotional impact of your mission, program or activity that is likely to trigger a positive response from existing and potential donors.

Donor Recognition

There are two kinds of donors: Those who quietly express their support with no expectation of special recognition and those who expect (and ask) to be publicly recognized for their gift. You tend to know and discover which donors enjoy being recognized by having their names appear in programs and annual reports. Donors often make larger gifts with the expectation of a naming opportunity and can be an important factor leading to a larger gift decision.

Your role also involves creating donor recognition opportunities in the form of naming opportunities, behind the scenes tours and pre-event receptions. Don’t hesitate to ask your donor how they would like to have their gift recognized.

Gifting decisions are often made jointly in married/partnered households. (For example, women participate in 90% of philanthropic decisions made by affluent couples). Volunteers often become donors. It is therefore important to nurture volunteer relationships and acknowledge volunteers’ commitment– which typically leads to financial gifts Their decision to make a larger gift often follows their consultation with their advisors, which is often the final step in the gifting process.

Here are three final strategies to consider:

Listen to your donors: Ask them what motivates them to give and present giving options for them to consider to help maintain their “giving momentum”

Remember their birthday: As part of thanking them for their support, send birthday wishes. This will deepen your relationship with over time, (and hopefully extend it to the next generation)

Make them happy: Always thank them, listen carefully to their ideas and concerns and respond to them in a timely manner.

While donors give to your organization, their initial and ongoing perception of you also determines the extent of their support of and long-term involvement with your organization. Your personality, commitment and donor empathy builds trust and will always be vital to the long-term success of your organization.

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