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Donors and Charity Leaders Don’t Always See Eye-to-eye

26 May 2011 at 1:48 pm
Staff Reporter
A recent US survey highlights the gaps between the perceptions of donors and charity executives in the areas of fundraising, communication and transparency.

Staff Reporter | 26 May 2011 at 1:48 pm


Donors and Charity Leaders Don’t Always See Eye-to-eye
26 May 2011 at 1:48 pm

A recent US survey highlights the gaps between the perceptions of donors and charity executives in the areas of fundraising, communication and transparency.

The research, conducted by Charity Navigator and other representatives of the US Not for Profit community, found that:

  • 78 percent of donors prefer one solicitation per year, while 71 percent of fundraising executives believe that donors prefer multiple appeals/ solicitations.
  • 75 percent of donors say that accountability and transparency is critical when selecting a charity to support, while only 58 percent of NFP executives agreed.

Where do donors and charity leaders see eye-to-eye?

The majority of donors (88%) and NFP executives (81%) rank the impact of the charity work as the most critical trait in selecting a charity to support.

The survey says understanding that executive leaders of a Not for Profit organisation and their donors’ perceptions may differ, the responses to specific questions in the survey demonstrate an interesting divergence, especially in transparency, future giving trends and fundraising approaches and methods.

The survey found that when donors were asked about levels of transparency and accountability, 60% replied that they are more important to them now.

And yet, when Executive Directors were asked if they believed that the trend among their donors is to want more transparency, less transparency or the same as before, 74% believed that their donors did not expect any change in the level of transparency and accountability.

The survey further revealed that donor preferences in fund raising techniques deviated from the perceptions of Executive Directors.

78% of donors said they prefer to have one annual appeal from a NFP organisation rather than multiple appeals throughout the year. Yet, 71% of Executive Directors declared that they believe donors prefer multiple appeals, and only 29% said they thought donors would prefer one ‘ask’ per year.

The survey says that Executive Directors need to listen carefully to donors.

It says they must foster an air of openness, demonstrating the financial strength and breadth of resources of the organisation and showcasing their impact on the community if they want to attract and retain donors. As well it says Executive Directors should recognise that donors, despite longstanding loyalty, are raising critical questions and they expect answers.

In the area of fundraising, nearly half of donors (47%) said they want less than 10% of their contributions to be applied to cover administrative and operating expenses.

Contrary to this, Executive Directors estimated that only 35% of their donors would opt for less than 10% of their contributions being designated for overhead and other costs.

The survey says the 12% gap may present a challenge for Executive Directors as more savvy donors pay attention to how funds are applied.

The survey offered a word of advice saying Executive Directors must educate their donors by identifying all costs related to each program (salaries and overhead included) so donors understand that philanthropic dollars are being used judiciously.

Some 43% of donors said that growing donor base was critical, only 25% of Executive Directors agreed.

Along the same lines, 42% of donors said strong fundraising results are critical to success but only 32% of Executive Directors agreed with that assessment.

In the area of Donor Loyalty 90% of donors said that they have one organisation that they support more consistently than any other. This loyalty is powerful, but the survey noted a complacent attitude in some of the Executive Director responses.

When asked to rank the one characteristic that was most important for a NFP’s success:

  • 24% of donors thought strong leadership was most important, compared to 19% of the Executive Directors
  • 15% of donors thought strong fundraising results were most important but only 1% of Executive Directors agreed
  • 33% of donors thought the impact of the organisation on its clients was the number one most important criteria for success but 58% of Executive Directors ranked this as most important

The survey says that if donors want to be reassured that there is a successful track record with strong leaders at the helm, Executive Directors will have to increase their donor communications accordingly.

The full report can be downloaded at

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