07 July 2017
Our commission found donors want to be treated with respect and are turned off by negative and manipulative appeals
The commission on the donor experience was set up in March 2016 in response to media scrutiny of fundraising practice and a crisis of public confidence in charities. At its heart was a simple idea – to place donors at the centre of fundraising. We believe that if donors have a positive experience of supporting a charity, they are likely to give more and for longer.
This isn’t just about changing the way charities behave; it’s about changing the way they think. Why do donors support a particular charity? What motivates them? What do they want from their engagement with a charity?
Over the course of 18 months, we have spoken to more than 1,000 donors to gather their experiences, both good and bad, of supporting charities.
We found that donors often just want to be treated with respect. Of those surveyed who reported a “best charity experience”, 90% cited being thanked, being respected when they said no and understanding the difference they had made. However, 87% were also able to cite worst experiences such as feeling harassed, being pestered or being asked to give more money than they ould afford.
These findings were supported by the results of a focus group, conducted in partnership with YouGov. Participants felt there was an over-reliance on emotional language and appeals that they believed were intended to manipulate potential donors into giving.
“There’s a fine line between making people feel guilty and angry, and turning them off,” said one participant. “Sometimes the language is too negative. I feel a lot better about a charity if they tell me about a success story,” said another. Donors understand why charities behave this way, but it often leaves them powerless, upset or frustrated when they are unable to donate.