Fundraise Smarter

Donors vs Supporters

Posted by Mark Shreve on May 3, 2013 8:36:34 AM

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In nonprofit fundraising, the words 'donate' and 'support' are used often, and usually interchangeably. It's easy to see why we use them so synonymously: theoretically, somebody who supports your cause will donate to it and somebody who donates to your cause obviously supports it. However anybody who works in nonprofit fundraising can tell you - just because somebody supports your cause doesn't mean they'll donate to it, and just because they donate to your cause doesn't mean they actually support it (there's a word for this, right?).

One of our goals in every crowdfunding campaign is to help the nonprofits we work with grow their online presence (facebook, twitter, email lists, etc.) while growing their financial capabilities. One way we do this is by reaching out to people who have donated while the campaign is live and asking them to ask 5 (or more) friends to donate $10 (or more) to the campaign and to like the nonprofit's facebook page. We give the nonprofit email templates to send to their donors so that all the donors have to do is forward an email 5 times. 2 minutes of work. In most cases, when we present this strategy to the nonprofit they love it and can't wait to implement it. However there are cases where we're told "If somebody just donated, they probably don't want to be bothered and asked to do more work." This is a red flag. How much can these donors actually support your cause if you think they're unwilling and to spread awareness for it? Anybody who says "Here's $100, leave me alone" is a donor (by definition) because they've donated. However they are most definitely not a supporter. If this is how you think about asking for donors, something's wrong, because it should be way more like this.

This is why we like to ask the nonprofits we work with this question: Which would you prefer - somebody who donates $500 and never speaks to you again, or somebody who donates $100 every year for 5 years?

The difference between a donor and a supporter is that a supporter cares about the success of your mission. Supporters don't always have to be donors - we've run several campaigns with nonprofits whose audiences were very cash-strapped. A $20 donation may have been the most a donor could afford, but what we see continually is supporters asking what they can do for the campaign besides simply donating. They want to spread awareness, they want to ask their friends and family to donate, they want to get your nonprofit's facebook more likes. If they care about your organization, a monetary contribution should be the first of several steps they will take to ensure your campaign's success.

There are a number of ways to ensure that the donors in your campaign become supporters, and we'll discuss them all next week.

@mdshreve

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