Abila Engagement Study Finds Disconnects Between Nonprofit Practices and Donor Preferences

First-of-its-kind study takes a holistic look at donor engagement ecosystem from both donor and nonprofit perspectives

April 15, 2015 – AUSTIN, TexasAbila, the leading provider of software and services to nonprofits and associations, today announced findings from itsDonor Engagement Study – Aligning Nonprofit Strategy with Donor Preferences that explores donor engagement and where alignment and disconnect exist between donors and nonprofit organizations. The study also includes engagement preferences across four generations of donors: Matures (70 or older), Boomers (51-69), Generation Xers (35-50), and Millennials (18-34).

“In many ways, donors and organizations are on the same page,” said Rich Dietz, Director of Fundraising Strategy for Abila and study co-author. “However, we’re seeing a number of areas where donors and nonprofit organizations are misaligned, especially around communication frequency. Donors want the organizations they support to execute well on the fundamentals, and they want organizations to better understand them as individuals: their specific interests, communication preferences, and even the time and way they prefer to give.”

Key Findings Include:

  • Fundamentals are key for nonprofit organizations: If the fundamentals are not being executed upon by organizations, no amount of strategy will make a difference. Fundamentals include: show donors money is being used wisely, show donors your organization is reputable, show donors your mission is sound, and show donors their contributions make a difference.
  • Donors and organizations are misaligned on communication frequency: Nonprofits are 10 times more likely than donors to feel they’re not communicating enough, while donors believe the frequency is about right or in many cases too much – in fact many donors would like to see the frequency of some communications channels greatly reduced.
  • Critical content is more important than frequency or channel: Rich content is essential for organizations to keep donors engaged. Hearing personal stories, getting updates on accomplishments, and being thanked make donors feel far more involved than the channel used to engage makes them feel.
  • Giving (or the act of giving) makes donors feel the most engaged: The way donors feel MOST engaged with an organization is the act of making a financial contribution. Volunteering is a close second. One caveat to this data is that Millennials are the one cohort that feels more engaged through volunteering, with giving a close second.
  • Age/generational engagement is a missed opportunity: Very few nonprofit respondents surveyed are actually targeting appeals or communications to their donors by age. The study indicates that there are big differences in communication and engagement preferences by generation that when used strategically can improve relationships and drive greater engagement.
  • Organizations are missing opportunities by not using donor preferences and data to drive strategy and tactics: Only 52 percent of donors feel like the organizations they support take their preferences into account when communicating or appealing for donations. Most nonprofits report that a single data point, donation amount, is used to drive communications with donors. Nonprofits are missing the opportunity to connect beyond the amount donors donate by using other information donors willingly provide to develop deeper, more lasting relationships.

“We do many studies looking at donor attitudes, values, and behaviors, but never before have we been able to do an apples to apples comparison with nonprofit perspectives,” said Pam Loeb, Principal at Edge Research, the firm that conducted the study. “The good news is that nonprofit professionals generally have a good grasp on the donor mindset, but there is a disconnect around frequency and other key points that can make a significant difference in their ability to put resources to their mission. Conventional wisdom is the more you ask the more you get — but at what cost? In this study, donors are telling nonprofits to stick to the important stuff, or they will tune you out.”

“If organizations aren’t using donor data and what donors are telling them to drive strategy and communication tactics, then they are at jeopardy of having donor relationships that do not reach their full potential and/or risk losing the donor all together,” continued Dietz.

You can download the full report at: www.abila.com/donorengagementstudy.

About the study

Commissioned by Abila, Edge Research explored questions with 1,263 donors in the United States ranging across all age segments – Millennials, Generation Xers, Boomers, and Matures. They also posed questions to 206 nonprofit professionals who work at organizations with annual revenue of $1-$49 million. The nonprofit professionals surveyed are involved in decisions around donor communications and engagement. The online surveys took place between February 2 and February 17, 2015.

About Abila

Abila is the leading provider of software and services to nonprofits, associations and governmental entities that help them improve decision-making, execute with greater precision, increase engagement, and generate more revenue. With Abila solutions, association and nonprofit professionals can use data and personal insight to make better financial and strategic decisions, enhance member and donor engagement and value, operate more efficiently and effectively, and increase revenue to better activate their mission. Abila combines decades of industry insight with technology know-how to serve more than 8,000 customers across North America. For more information, please visit www.abila.com.

Media Contact:
Jenna Overbeck