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What Donors Want from Nonprofits

Excerpted from More Money for More Good

more-money-for-more-good-logo.gifDespite differences in behavior, all donor categories (individuals, advisors, and foundation grantmakers) want similar types of information from nonprofits presented in similar ways. Communicating and connecting with each group doesn't require a vastly different strategy or different information.

In terms of the type of information, all donors want to understand the full story of an organization, including:

  • The financial picture, including how an organization spends its money
  • That a nonprofit is legitimate
  • The basics of the organization—its mission, approach, and make up
  • The breadth and depth of the cause
  • The nonprofit's impact

Some of the information donors want, such as financials, is fairly easy to come by. In fact, donors state they are able to find each of the first four items on the list without much difficulty. But donors also want information on a nonprofit's impact, which can be very difficult to obtain. This information—how effectively nonprofits achieve their missions—is the true "unmet need" of donors.


Just as important as the information that donors want is how they want that information presented. All three groups clearly prefer an easy-to-digest report similar to what is produced by Consumer Reports. This format balances simplicity and thoroughness. It is easy to understand, while still allowing each person to make his or her own decision.

Descriptions of nonprofits without ratings also scored high; in fact, these descriptions—provided by a third-party site or by the nonprofit itself—scored higher than the simple "stamp of approval" approach that is so common today. It is not necessarily the case that donors don't want a perspective or star rating. They just want those perspectives to be conveyed in context, and with an eye on the full picture of the organization.

Trusted Sources and Location

Donors also have clear and consistent preferences on the source of information on nonprofits and where they want to find this information. On both dimensions donors give high ratings to nonprofit information portals and rating agencies as well as the nonprofit itself. It is important to know, however, that although donors say they like third-party sites, their awareness and knowledge of the ones that already exist today is very limited. The vast majority of research that is done by donors happens through direct contact with the nonprofit itself—be it the organization's Web site, materials, or staff.

How You Benefit from Offering Donors More Information

The bottom line of this research is that donors care about nonprofit performance, they want a complete picture of a nonprofit, and they want that picture presented in a clear, easy-to-understand way. Connecting with donors and communicating this information can help you access your share of the $15 billion in annual giving donors are willing to move to high-performing nonprofits. Best of all, collecting and communicating the information donors care about and want does not need to be an onerous, expensive process.

In the next three chapters we'll show you how you can present the right information about your organization in the right way to attract donors' attention. If you collect the right information, communicate your story, and connect with donors, you can access more money for more good.

Download your free copy of the guidebook

Bob Ottenhoff, GuideStar USA, and Greg Ulrich, Hope Consulting
© 2012, GuideStar USA, Inc. and Hope Consulting

what-donors-want-from-nonprofits_Bob_Ottenhoff.jpgBob Ottenhoff is president emeritus of GuideStar.





what-donors-want-from-nonprofits_Greg_Ulrich.jpgGreg Ulrich is director of advisory services at Hope Consulting.




Topics: Fundraising