Smaller dollar donors are my favorite donors. I love talking to them, hearing their stories, and I especially love the passion behind their giving.
Don’t let the dollar amounts fool you–some of these donors are among the most loyal supporters you have. Their giving is nothing short of inspiring.
That’s why I hate hearing nonprofits diminish the value and importance of their smaller dollar donors. I even oppose the term “low dollar donors”.
A donor is a donor. The size of their gift says nothing about who is behind it and how passionate they are about your cause.
There is so much to appreciate about smaller dollar donors.
Here are some reasons why it is worthwhile to cultivate lower dollar donors, and treat them like the heroes they are:
Don’t assume a $15 donor will stay a $15 donor. Many smaller dollar donors will move up to higher giving amounts. Some of them will make a significantly large jump in giving. This can take time-think years rather than months.
Remember, most people don’t make a big gift the first time they contribute to a nonprofit. That’s true, even if they have a lot of money. Donors want to test the waters with your organization, and make sure it is a worthwhile investment.
Understand that and be patient. Don’t jump to quick conclusions about donors based on their first gift amount. And be sure to pay attention to frequency in addition to the size of the gift. A $10 donor looks very different if she is giving each month.
A broad level of support at the lower dollar levels is nothing to look down at. In fact, it is a really good thing. Remember, it’s called the donor pyramid for a reason.
While having a small number of really big donors might seem like a dream, think about what happens if one or two of these major donors suddenly stop giving. How will you quickly replace that shortage in income?
At the lower dollar levels, there are typically more donors. You don’t feel a lot of pain when you lose a few of them. And their combined contributions can add up to a lot of money for your organization.
3. The Future
How many stories have you heard about a lower dollar donor unexpectedly leaving a huge gift for a nonprofit in their will?
The biggest indicator of which donor might make a planned give is their loyalty. That is often best shown by the number of years a donor has been giving to a nonprofit, and their frequency of giving. That’s why smaller dollar donors who give consistently should grab the attention of your planned giving team members. Monthly donors are 7 times more likely to leave a legacy gift.
Ways to Cultivate Lower Dollar Donors
1. Thank All of Your Donors.
You should send a thank you letter for a donation of any amount. I cringe every time I hear about a nonprofit who only sends thank you letters for those donors who give $15 or $20 or whatever the arbitrary cutoff number is.
Every single donor deserves a thank you letter. Every single one. And every thank you letter should be personal and genuinely display gratitude.
2. Don’t Remove Lower Dollar Donors from Communications.
Yes, you can save money by removing lower dollar donors from your solicitations. That might look good in the short term, but by doing this you are essentially ending the relationship. A relationship that these donors want to continue. That’s not good fundraising in the long term, especially when you consider that a few of these will likely end up making big gifts.
3. Truly Believe Every Donor is a Hero.
Donors are individuals who are choosing to give money to your organization. That’s money they could have spent in a hundred different ways or put in their bank account for a rainy day. Instead they have chosen to donate it to your nonprofit, because they believe so passionately in your cause they are willing to put it in front of their own needs. Don’t lose sight of that. It is true of all donors, and the sacrifices made can be particularly big for lower dollar donors. These are your partners, and they should be treated accordingly.
Make sure your entire nonprofit understands the value of all of your donors. Having the right mindset internally can make a big difference, and will often be reflected back to the donors themselves.
Talk with these donors. Smaller dollar donors have amazing stories to tell that will inspire you. Trust me. Want to inspire your team? Tell them about the lady you just talked with who sends in a few dollar bills every single month, carefully folded and saved just for your nonprofit. Share how passionately she believes in your cause, and how strongly she believes in the great work of your organization.
4. Start or grow a monthly giving program.
Donors who can only give smaller amounts are often willing to commit to giving that amount each month. It is often convenient for them, and they often appreciate being able to budget this way.
Monthly giving is a no brainer for your organization. When you move these smaller donors into your monthly giving program, you can expect to receive more income from them each year, and significantly higher renewal rates.
When donors do join your monthly giving program, make sure to treat them as an important part of your organization. This is not the time to ignore them. Rather, think through the type and frequency of communication monthly donors should be receiving, and how best to make them feel appreciated.
Smaller dollar donors are an important part of any nonprofit. Too often, these donors are ignored and removed from mailings in an attempt to save money or improve ROI. Smart nonprofits take a longer-term view. They continue to cultivate smaller dollar donors, and treat them with respect. Good nonprofits seek to make all of their donors feel important, because they all are.