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Compelling content that connects with your audience is a critical aspect of any fundraising strategy.  Whether it’s a direct mail piece or a tweet, nonprofits are constantly looking to find ways to identify information their donors want and share it in a way that motivates them to take action. However, there’s a big difference between what we think donors want and what they really want.

What Nonprofits Can Learn About Donor Motivations from Baseball

I was recently reminded about the difference between what people think they want versus what they really want in this article from the Harvard Business Review. The article shares results from a recent poll of Major League Baseball fans about what they considered to be the most important factors in rooting for their team. Here was the fascinating part… what the fans thought they wanted most was for their favorite team to win. That sounds obvious, right? However, the study found that deep down, what they wanted more than that was to watch a close game where they weren’t sure who would win.

 What Nonprofits Think Donors Want versus What They Really Want

The article was an incredible reminder for nonprofits that the things we think our donors care about most and the things that actually motivate them to continually support our cause might not be the same thing.

Here are a few areas in which nonprofits might be engaging donors in ways we think they want rather than what truly connects with their deepest desires…

We think donors want to hear about outcomes and stories, but what they really want is to be inspired and feel connected to the cause. While sharing impact stories is important for any nonprofit, what is most important is that we communicate in a way that inspires donors. Do your stories leave donors with a sense of aspiration? Among the thousands of “ice bucket” videos that were created last month, the ones repeatedly shared were those that deeply moved people and connected them to the ALS cause.

We think donors want to feel needed, but what they really want is to be challenged. Instead of always approaching donors with an open-ended request, how might we challenge donors to give more? How do we inspire donors to a purpose beyond the current level of impact by activating their imagination around what could be? Why do baseball fans attend games where the outcome is questionable? Because we can’t wait to see how our team will perform in a real challenge.

While outcomes, stories, and stewardship are all important elements of engaging donors, don’t forget what it takes to provide donors with what they really want… to be inspired and moved toward something truly great.

Are you giving donors what you think they want, or are you connecting with the motivations needed to give in an extraordinary way?