How to Offer Your Donors Giving Level Opportunities

By Susan Rostkoski

Principal Consultant, Resource Development 

First, STOP!  That’s right, just stop. Before you jump in and “do something,” spend some of your precious time and energy understanding your donors’ giving habits. Why? Well, you don’t give a loved one a present without thinking about what they are interested in. And you are actually presenting your donors with a gift when you are thoughtful about what you are asking them for. Having said that, start researching:

  • What is your average gift from annual donors?

  • Is there a pattern of giving from your best donors?

  • Do you know who your lapsed donors are and at what giving levels they quit donating?

Investing a little bit of time into data analysis and truly understanding who your donors currently are gives you an edge.

Now to some ideas that have worked well but are too often ignored:

B. Match passion and program, in particular for “stuck” donors. If a group of your donors has been giving $100 to your food shelf for the last three years, work with the food shelf program staff to create a giving level chart from $100 up. This tactic refreshes the donor’s mind about what it is that you need, as well as what they want to give.

C. Ripped from the headlines! How does your cause relate to a big problem that people see in their daily news feed and, how is your organization helping to address that problem locally? Tie giving levels to very concrete actions that the donor can visualize as necessary and impactful to a solution.

D. People are visual beings. We like to “see” what we buy. Where possible, use color photos, infographics, or other images and tie giving levels to the pictures. Seems basic but take a good look the next time you receive a solicitation from an organization to see how boring or disconnected some of the photographs can be.

E. Create one-of-a-kind experiences from which the donor can choose—it will cost you next to nothing. For example, at a $500 level, the donor becomes a member of your Giving Group; at $1,000 they get lunch with a leader in your organization (as high up the chain as possible); and at $2,000 they get “a sneak peek” i.e. an inside look at how their favorite program or your organization in general operates. These types of perquisites appeal to the donor who really wants to know you better and to feel that he or she is personally involved beyond the check they send you.

Finally, don’t make your giving levels all about the need. The solution, the positive outcome, the long-term change that is activated by a donor’s gift, no matter what size, should be your focus.