Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember the Whys and Hows of Giving

Why do you give?
By Bryce Wilkinson,  project coordinator at Community First Foundation

It’s a simple question, but the answers tend to be more complicated. Sometimes it’s because you heard a story which moved you to action. Other times the connection isn’t with the cause itself but a person you know; your friend asked you to donate or your uncle works at this nonprofit, so you donate to it. Personal reasons – your wife is a breast cancer survivor or you enjoy gardening – can also prompt you to donate Often, though, there is some combination of factors swirled together in just the right way at just the right time that compels you to give.

A recent donation I made had a number of contributing factors behind it. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Niger, West Africa. During that time, I had my fair share of parasites from contaminated water. The other day I read an article about illnesses resulting from contaminated water which made me remember how difficult it is to live with amoebas swimming around in your gut, so I made a donation to a nonprofit that works on providing clean drinking water.

How do you give?
My parents (and I suspect many of your parents as well) are not very technologically inclined. They do not purchase items online. They drive to the bank to do transactions in person. And, they make donations to organizations important to them by sending checks on a regular basis.

I, on the other hand, prefer to shop on the Internet, only go to the bank to deposit the birthday check my parents sent (my bank doesn’t have an app for that yet, sigh), and I only donate online.

So what?
There’s nothing new here, right? We all know that people give for various reasons; it’s common knowledge that some people are more comfortable operating in a digital environment while others prefer paper.

Here’s the thing: as nonprofit professionals we often fail to act on this knowledge.

People do give for a number of reasons, so present them with your message every which way you can. Provide some facts in an annual report, share your mission on a blog, send your friends an email asking them to donate, and tell a story that encapsulates what you do in a personal way. In this way, the theme of your message is consistent, but by mixing up the way in which it is communicated, you can touch upon and emphasize the many reasons to support your centered mission.

Then once a connection is established and a donation has been made, continue to communicate through the medium the gift was made. If, as a nonprofit, you received a check in the mail, send a thank you note in the mail. But, if you received a gift online, send a thank you email.

As you put the finishing touches on your annual campaign, take a little time to reflect on the why and the how of giving and act accordingly.