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3 Ways to Upgrade Your Fundraising Strategy


3 Ways to Upgrade Your Fundraising Strategy

Philanthropic research is one of the most commonly overlooked sources of inspiration for fundraising. Don’t let it be yours! In this article, you will walk away with key insights from three research studies to refresh your development strategy.

#1: Try the “DIME” Method

Would you be surprised to know that donors want to work for their contributions and be involved at a deeper level? According to one University of British Columbia researcher on the “science of philanthropy,” the DIME (Donation Impact, Motivation and Energy) fundraising method says so.

Donation Impact – supporters like to know they have made a difference. 

One of the key findings in this study is that donors are twice as likely to give to specific rather than general “asks.” Tangible impact statements work because it gives donors a sense of competency, critical for psychological well-being (AKA “subjective well-being”). Donors also report in this study that impact statements make them feel happier and more likely to give again – especially if it comes with personalized donor recognition (e.g., customized thank-you notes with specific impact statements).

Motivation and energy – individuals prefer “effortful giving.” 

In psychology and philanthropy, effortful giving is more commonly referred to as the “martyrdom effect.” The basic idea is that the more effort – physical pain in particular – the donor has to put into raising funds, the greater the sacrifice and feeling of personal gain. Some examples of this include endurance races and the “ice bucket challenge.” Another aspect of “effortful giving” is that donors want to be more involved in where their gift goes in a way that aligns with motivation (i.e., values). This explains why donors prefer donation buttons that go toward specific programs.

Key takeaway? Make sure your next appeal is impact-based and garners a deeper level of involvement from donors.

#2: Apply Communication Theory

Drawing from communication theory, the nonprofit-donor relationship can be greatly enhanced and measured by assessing levels of trust, commitment, satisfaction, and power.

Trust – when donors believe nonprofits will do what they said they would. Nonprofits who demonstrate accountability by following up with donors on their gifts are more likely to establish trust and retain long-term relationships.

Commitment – the donor’s belief that the relationship is worth spending energy to maintain and promote. Nonprofits can strive to cultivate donor commitment by understanding giving motivations and sending more relevant communication.

Satisfaction – when a donor’s positive feelings about a nonprofit outweigh the negative. Developing satisfying relationships is a key indicator of long-term major donors and key stakeholders.

Balance of power – when the donor believes they hold equal power to the nonprofit. Nonprofits can demonstrate a balance in power by regularly asking for advice, while also asserting thought leadership for the organization.

Key takeaway? Strive to develop trust, commitment, satisfaction, and balance of power in your donor relationships.

#3: Develop your donor segments

According to this study, most nonprofits can identify their target market for program constituents,  but cannot for donors or volunteers. For small nonprofits, in particular, there is reportedly less focus and consistency in marketing tactics among donors.

To understand your nonprofit’s donor base, you should:

  • Understand what motivates them to give to you in particular

  • Identify commonalities with other donor segments: gender, age, education, employment, etc.

  • Educate your team on how marketing influences every level of fundraising strategy

  • Specify goals to measure levels of engagement with specific donor segments

Key takeaway? It’s crucial to develop donor segments within your supporter base for long-term fundraising success.

Upgrading With the Basics

In many ways, these research studies support that improving your fundraising strategy has less to do with trying new things and more to do with getting a better handle on the basics.


Learn more about ZGIVE, a turn-key mobile giving platform that includes unlimited campaigns to improve your donor communication with Text-to-Give, Scan-to-Give, and Text-to-Engage.