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What No One Tells You About “Small” Donors

As a nonprofit, it’s always nice to have those larger donors; the ones who give a lot at once and do so on a consistent basis…

They might make a big yearly or bi-yearly donation, but it’s always substantial when they do.  These are your ideal supporters…right?  You might be surprised to find out that this isn’t always the case.  Of course, large donations are very important and should be well-received, however, there’s a lot we can learn about cultivating our “smaller” or everyday donors, which many nonprofits may overlook.  

A startling fact about major donors is that most of the ones I’ve interacted with say their first donations were of small amounts, averaging around $25.  And the reason?  They were testing the water before committing!  You might have many of these everyday donors already that you could be nurturing into long-term supporters or larger donors, but if you’re not taking the time to show your appreciation to them, you’ll likely lose the opportunity.

A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”

Nurturing your everyday donors by showing appreciation for their contributions will likely turn them into lifelong and/or progressively larger donors.  And when you treat these awesome people awesomely, they will be more likely to promote your organization within their personal social networks, which could lead to a higher volume of supporters for your nonprofit!  They feel good, you feel good, everyone wins.  So, how do you go about nurturing these supporters?    

Building Engaged Relationships with Everyday Donors

As a nonprofit, you need to look at each small donation as an entry point, a window into, and longterm relationship with that donor that could (and should) return many dividends in the form of a lifetime of giving AND access to the donor’s networks.

Building engaged relationships with your donors regardless of donation size is the solution.  You can’t look at a $10 donation as “not worth my time“; rather, you need to see it as the first engagement in a long-term relationship that can potentially lead to much larger donations and access to that donor’s networks.  That $10 donation represents a huge opportunity, not a waste of constrained resources that could be better spent chasing bigger donors.

Unfortunately, most nonprofits don’t see it this way because that is how it has always been looked at.  The result is the cycle of inefficiency and struggle for resources continues indefinitely.  Nonprofits HAVE to look at the world completely differently than they always have, or risk extinction in the not so distant future.

Everyday Donors ARE NOT Major Donors 

Although all donors, ordinary and extraordinary, should be seen as valuable and shown appreciation, they shouldn’t be treated exactly the same.  There’s great value in getting to know and segmenting your donors based on how they like to give, how they like to be communicated with, how long they’ve been giving to your nonprofit and in what amounts, and so on.  

For instance, a great example of this comes from an article written by Bloomerang, where they point out the major downsides of treating every donor like major donors.  One point being that not all everyday donors are ready to be prepped into giving larger gifts, and so probably wouldn’t even appreciate being treated that way…  

The Takeaway    

Smaller donations should be viewed as opportunities, not burdens.  It’s great that these donors gave what they did, they’re supporting your nonprofit, and you now have this added connection and new member of your nonprofit community.  Appreciate them for how great this is and continue to involve them by sending them updates on what your organization is doing.  Maintaining a relationship with them that’s both appreciative and inclusive could make them lifelong supporters and potentially major donors over time.   

Treat them like investors in your nonprofit because that is exactly what they are, regardless of the size of the investment.  They have indicated that there is something about your nonprofit that prompted them to give the first time (often at a small level), and it’s now up to you to turn that into a long-term relationship!

This concept of viewing smaller donors  – or what we’d prefer to call “everyday donors” – as qualified leads for finding major donors is the new paradigm shift nonprofits need to implement if they want to take their fundraising efforts to the next level!