Connections for Success



Donations: Evaluating What Works
Kevin Omahen

The recession has been over for many years and the nation’s unemployment rate has returned to below 5%. So, can not-for-profit organizations expect to see the donation flood gates open back up? For some organizations, this may be the case. However, this may not be the case for all. Many variables factor into why donations may be up or down and there is never a bad time for organizations to review their struggles or successes with donations, and determine ways to improve.

Retaining Donors

Retaining the same donors year after year is a struggle every not-for-profit organization faces. Similar to restaurants depending on their regulars to keep coming back, a not-for-profit organization’s success is dependent on keeping their donors for years to come.

With donors having limited amounts of cash, and what seems to be unlimited opportunities to donate to organizations throughout the world, what is the trick to retaining your regulars? Many organizations rely on finding ways to keep donors engaged. Beyond just believing in the organization’s mission, keeping donors interested in contributing is influenced by the donors feeling as if they are part of the mission. Having fun events which donors enjoy, asking for donor feedback on past decisions and continually updating donors on new developments within the organization helps keep donors engaged, and will assist with retaining donors through the test of time.

Donor Data

When evaluating a not-for-profit organization’s success with donations, having the best donor data is a crucial benchmark for proper evaluation. Just looking at comparative financial statements and comparing the current year and prior year line item is not enough. Not-for-profit organizations need to work with their development and accounting departments and be able to provide the decision makers of the organization with the most extensive information possible.

Who is donating, how much are they donating and, most importantly, why they are donating, is how organizations can adjust their marketing strategy. Organizations need to accumulate as much donor data as possible and analyze it accordingly to maximize their potential donations.

The Next Generation-Millennials

Not-for-profit organizations can no longer depend on the baby boomer generation and will have to begin focusing on the next generation—the Millennials. For individuals, the ability to donate is based mainly on disposable income. Unfortunately, for Millennials, this disposable income may not exist. Many Millennials have college degrees; however, some leave college either unemployed or underemployed and have massive amounts of student loan debt. Additionally, Millennials, on average, make less (adjusted for inflation) than their parents did at the same age.

So, is the next generation of donors nonexistent? The answer is no; you just need to adjust your strategies and find them. Millennials are constantly using their phones, tablets and laptops and are bombarded by social media. This is a perfect opportunity for not-for-profit organizations to market themselves. Many forms of social media allow organizations to advertise at either little to no cost. Using social media to engage Millennials on events of the organization is a great way to spread the word and find new donors. Also, it is important to adhere to Millennials preferred form of payment: Plastic. Allowing donations to be made via the organization’s website and accepting credit/debit cards as a form of payment at events ensures that you do not lose a donation by only accepting cash or checks.

Donations are a major driving force to a not-for-profit organization’s success. Keeping donors, having the right data and adhering to the next generation of donors are struggles every organization faces. Being able to identify these struggles and adjusting your strategies for conquering these issues could be a make or break for the organization.

For more information, contact Kevin Omahen at [email protected], or call him at 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Not-For-Profit Group.

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