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IQ&A with Elizabeth Foy Larsen, Managing Editor

National author and researcher Penelope Burk reveals what every donor needs to receive from the charities they love to support.

IQ: What do donors wish nonprofits knew? PB: Three basic things—when they make a gift, donors want to be acknowledged promptly and in a way that shows they appreciate that the donor is a human being—not just a person with money. They want to know that their donations are assigned to a certain cause or program, not a general fund. Donors also want a report that shows what progress has been made as a result of their gift. Unfortunately, nonprofits don’t always provide them.

IQ: Why do some people stop giving? PB: Over-solicitation is the number one reason. Not only do they feel that too many charities ask them for money, but also that some charities ask them too often. Organizations that over-solicit are demonstrating to donors that they spend a lot of money raising money. The second reason is that they aren’t informed of measurable results from their last gift.

IQ: Are there parallels between giving to charity and buying a product? PB: If you buy something, you can get your money back if there is something wrong with the product. That’s not the case with charity. Unhappy donors simply choose to not give again or shift their giving to another cause. IQ: How are giving preferences changing? PB: Donors are much more independent today. (With technology) they have the convenience of learning and researching and getting them-

selves excited. Those donors tend to make a gift because they have invested their own time. And they tend to give significantly more when they give independently.

IQ: What are the lessons from these trends? PB: Nonprofits must move from a gatekeeper mentality to more of a customer service role. It’s a shift from asking, “How fast can we get the money?” to asking, “How can we serve you and make the giving experience as positive and convenient as possible?”

IQ: How do some nonprofits miss the boat?

PB: If someone gives $10,000 and another gives $25, nonprofits will usually interact with those donors relative to their gift value. The vast majority of donors—72 percent—say that their first gift is not a measurement of what they can give. One of the reasons they don’t give more is that they are treated like the $25 donor they are, instead of the million-dollar donor they have the potential to be.

With more than 30 years in nonprofit management and consulting, Penelope Burk is the author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, transforming the way the sector serves its critical benefactors. Her groundbreaking research continues to gain international recognition for challenging and improving fundraising practices.

56 Initiative Quarterly Magazine

IQ Magazine - Spring 2011  

Published by the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, Minnesota, IQ Magazine boils down regional leadership issues to their very essence....

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