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    What Canadian Donors Are Thinking in 2018

    By Penelope Burk originally posted on Burk’s Blog.

    Ah…my annual indulgence that I eagerly share with you. Please enjoy this selection of comments from donors who have already taken part in the 2018 Burk Donor Survey. Included are a number of comments about giving during natural disasters, which is one of our survey’s special themes this year.

    As always, my special thanks to dozens of not-for-profits who are reaching out to their donors in April and May to invite them to participate in The Burk Donor Survey. These wonderful organizations are united by their belief that evidence from donors should inform decisions about fundraising. And, of course, my deepest gratitude goes to those thousands of donors who, for a little while, have put their busy lives on hold in order to talk about what philanthropy means to them and how their giving is changing in a world full of challenges and opportunities.

    I’m more inclined to give when I can see a direct benefit. For example, I will rally to help provide safe food and shelter to people who need it, but I’m less inspired to give to programs or outreach that is susceptible to political influence.

    There were two instances this year where I made gifts over and above what I had intended and they both involved personal contact from someone in the development office (director or gifts officer). Being thanked for my previous gift was much more persuasive than receiving multiple emails and direct mail letters.

    I would definitely make larger gifts if there were 1) fewer campaigns; 2) those campaigns championed more targeted solutions; 3) those solutions were backed up by better impact information.

    I would give more if someone could help me figure out how I can do that and still save for retirement, etc. There must be good information out there about philanthropy and tax savings.

    I love matching gift opportunities that double or triple my contributions. I used to work for a Fortune 50 company that did that and I miss that motivation.

    I don’t connect with appeals that ask me to “fix poverty” in my community. But if I were asked to provide interim housing for 10 women and their families so that they could leave abusive situations, I could get my head around that and I would feel my giving had more of an impact.

    I would give more if my spouse and I were on the same page. She doesn’t really buy into the values of some organizations I support — not that she’s opposed, she just doesn’t prioritize them the way I do. If she were on board, I would likely triple or quadruple our family’s overall annual giving.

    I could always expand giving a little, but I try to hold back in case there is a major need at one of the organizations I support. I always like to have a little in reserve in case a special need comes along.

    In general, I’m satisfied with my level of giving, but there is one cause that would make me give at a much higher level. The irony is that they never ask me to give more generously.

    I am suffering from compassion fatigue.

    What my friends and I talk about is how donors who make smaller gift are dismissed as unimportant. But American Red Cross is the exception; they treat everyone the same. Religious organizations are pretty good about that too, for the most part.

    I ALWAYS donate when an organization I believe in asks me to give, but I think I could do a better job of actually budgeting for philanthropy. Maybe I should sign up for sustaining donations.

    For some disaster relief organizations, every minute is a “monumental disaster, the likes of which have never been seen before”, but the way they fundraise tells a different story. They send out identical appeals week after week – pages and pages of stuff. It doesn’t inspire me to give; it desensitizes me to their pleas for help.

    Not-for-profits are quick to point it out when I go slightly longer than 12 months without giving. They send me notes like, “Sorry we haven’t heard from you lately” but they never ask me why. If I were responsible for donors, I would want to know.

    I’ve narrowed my giving down to organizations that issue informative and concise reports about what they are achieving with donors’ contributions AND which do not harass me with multiple solicitations.

    Even when a disaster is unfolding and it’s urgent that I give now, I still take the time to do some research first. I look at overhead costs and I try to assess how efficient relief agencies are with the funds they raise.

    My giving decisions are based on news coverage and testimony from people I respect about the efficacy of not-for-profit organizations. I don’t respond well to solicitations, especially those that are over-the-top emotional or which use a “shock” approach to encourage donations.

    Last year I had one of the most positive experiences ever after donating to a relief agency that was intervening in a disaster that had affected our out-of-state friends. After giving, I received email updates that always included expressions of appreciation for my contribution. The organization described how they were helping those affected by the disaster, and how their services would be evolving over time. The tone of every communication was positive and respectful. As I result, I will give them another gift this year, even though I do not live in the area in which they work.

    I don’t need another umbrella, t-shirt or tote bag; I want my donation to go to the cause. I am also conscious of the need to reduce waste. I give because I want to give, not for free swag or because I need to be showered with thanks.

    The ongoing nature of large-scale disasters coupled with what I believe has been a completely inadequate and inhuman response from government, make me wish I could give more. I don’t mind the additional solicitations at all, even though I can’t always respond generously. Hopefully other donors getting the same appeals are stepping up to the plate.

    I’m dropping disaster relief support from my giving priorities. Results are just too hard to see.

    When thanking me for a donation, please do not ask for more money. It’s better to say nothing than to send this kind of thank you note.

    Overall, the longer the letters and the more frequent the requests, the less likely I am to donate.

    I gave because of the quality of Twitter posts from a children’s organization. There is always so much “noise” when there’s a disaster that it’s easy to ignore everything. But the way this not-for-profit was documenting the issues, defining needs and articulating solutions really stood out to me. Their approach to work on the ground and the way they asked seemed different and that was the trigger to giving for me.

    I gave to the Maria Hurricane fund after seeing our former Presidents come together to ask for donations – and how different that was from the current administration that was failing to step up.

    My union sponsors a postal disaster relief program where funds are available to any postal employee in the country who needs financial help during a disaster. The program is described in a simple annual appeal letter — no long sob stories. This spring I’m signing up for their monthly donation option.

    My mother died last year and now all the requests she used to get are coming to me. Honestly, when I was helping my mom go through her mail and write out her bills before she passed away, she was getting several mailings a month from some of these agencies. It was so annoying! She kept track of when she sent them her small donation and would tell them that she’d give again in 6 months. But they just kept bombarding her anyway. All that money wasted that those agencies could have been using to help people!

    I didn’t receive any information at all after making a gift to a not-for-profit last year. I wonder what they did with the money and whether it helped.

    I had not known much about the Houston Food Bank before making a gift during Harvey. I am very impressed with their follow-up. To have the organization thank me and explain how the dollars were used WITHOUT asking for more money actually made me want to give more.

    An update on what they are accomplishing with the gifts that I and other donors have already made is actually more effective than another appeal. The updates themselves make you want to give again.

    I think that preparing for a disaster – while smart and important – does not make for as compelling an appeal as the stories you see and hear when a disaster actually hits. I feel terrible writing that – of course it’s best for organizations to be prepared and have everything they need prior to a disaster, but I think the truth is that I just don’t think about it until it happens.

    Some of the ratings that GuideStar and Charity Navigator use to assess not-for-profits just don’t reflect my values. For instance, it doesn’t bother me that an organization spends money on administration. I’m more interested in whether or not they are ethical.

    I expect disaster relief agencies to be too busy and overwhelmed to thank me or follow up. Actually, I WANT them to be too busy to be concerned about me as a donor.

    In most cases, preparing for future disasters might actually mitigate suffering and damage in the long run. Planning for better evacuation programs, advance staging of supplies, etc. Yes, that’s a better way to do it.

    In the previous question in this survey, I checked the box that said I was only “somewhat satisfied” with my disaster relief giving experience. This is not a reflection on the agencies but, rather, my own disappointment that I could not contribute more.