When you have multi-million dollar gifts coming in, it can be easy to turn your attention to the foundations and philanthropists behind those big numbers.
And easy to forget about the small gift donors whose contributions of $5 to $5,000 dollars are the foundation of your success. The vast majority of charitable giving comes from individuals — their value can not be forgotten.
Furthermore, in a world of increasing online giving, small gift donors are of the utmost importance. The median size of an online gift was $178 in 2016.
With gifts of any size, these donors are critical to the success of any nonprofit and it’s these same donors who often grow to give larger gifts as their investment into your mission grows and finances change.
Providing small gift donors with the big impactful experiences they deserve doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few ideas to keep them engaged, show them gratitude, and retain their support.
1. Social proof
When they publicly align themselves with a cause, donors are saying something important about the way they view the world and getting peer recognition for doing so. That’s called social proof and you can make it even easier for donors by providing badges and filters they can use on their social profiles.
Gamified experiences are gaining steam in just about every business department — marketing, human resources, sales, and more. Playing a game and achieving a reward releases dopamine in the brain that makes participants happy and encourages them to participate again. You can gamify engagement with your nonprofit by rewarding supporters for various actions — from gifts, to social shares, to event attendance, and beyond.
3. Mobile experiences
The average American adult spends 86 hours per month on their smartphones, and the number is growing among younger generations. To make an impact with small gift donors, you need to meet them where they are — on their mobile phones. Text-to-give campaigns are a great start, but it’s also critical to have a mobile-optimized website and easy mobile donation experience.
Fancy galas are an excellent way to celebrate your multi-million dollar donors, but don’t forget about your small gift givers when it comes to hosting events. Donor appreciation events can be done on a budget. The most important thing to remember is to ensure the event adds value to your donors’ lives in some way. For example, host a mixer where your young professional donors can network, put on a race that gives donors a goal to work towards, or bring in a speaker that they wouldn’t have access to elsewhere.
5. Time limits
Everyone likes to accomplish a goal. You can encourage group engagement with small gift donors by setting a big goal and a time limit to reach it. For example, Amplify Austin does an annual one-day giving event to bring small donors together in service of meeting a challenge number. Movember is a well-known campaign that encourages participants to raise money for men’s health issues for the entire month of November.
6. User-generated content
User-generated content is a cost-effective way to engage small gift donors. Not only do existing donors get excited about sharing to the campaign, it creates an excellent marketing tool for your organization. A great example is the #GirlsCount campaign by One. They asked celebrities and real people to submit a video of themselves reading a number from one to 130 million — the number of girls who don’t have access to an education. Once completed, all the user-generated content will be curated into an epically long video.
7. Donations as a gift
Particularly during the holiday season, providing donors with the ability to make donations as a gift to another person is a great way to increase engagement. It serves the purpose of social proof and helps make shopping easier. Ensure you have an inspired way to tell the recipient about the donation made on their behalf — whether it’s a simple thank you card or a small token of appreciation. Charity:Water even does the reverse by allowing people to ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts.
8. Stay in touch
A simple way to make a big splash with small gift donors is just to stay in touch. Keeping donors informed regularly of how their support is making a difference is a must for retention. This can be tough to do with a big donor base, but email automation software makes it much easier. You can set emails at regular intervals so that every donor feels remembered.
Storytelling, like gamification, has an impact on the brain. When we hear stories, our brain releases the neurochemicals associated with making us pay attention and feel empathy. Stories, therefore, are an excellent way to get donors to connect with your mission. Tell the stories of the individuals impacted by your work. Video is a great way to convey the message, but written stories work well too.
10. Make gifts tangible
It’s easier for donors to connect with giving when they feel a tangible connection between their dollars and what is being provided. Even if you can’t ensure exactly where each donation is going, you can create a symbolic connection between an item and a donation amount. Heifer International, for example, does an excellent job of this. You can give a goat, launch a business, or send a girl to school.
Small donors are of great importance to your nonprofit. Keep them engaged, show them gratitude, and give them easy opportunities to increase their support. The results could be gigantic.
Taylor Burke is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com and former nonprofit marketing director. She writes about marketing and communications.