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Case Study Donor Participation Project Resources

The Data on Engagement and Giving: The “X Factor”

Engaged donors give more. That’s the key insight from new research on the connection between engagement and giving.

According to data from surveys of nearly 10,000 donors performed by Louis Diez and Ron Cohen, those who feel highly engaged with an organization—defined as meeting with people related to and feeling valued by the organization frequently—give at significantly higher levels. In fact, the most engaged donors give at up to 5 times the rate of donors overall.

Call it the “X factor.”

For organizations focused on fundraising, engagement with donors and constituents dramatically multiplies giving over time. Donor engagement is the X factor that significantly boosts giving from key donor groups:

  • Gifts under $1,000: Highly engaged donors gave at 1.2 times the rate of all donors.
  • Gifts $2,500-$9,999: Highly engaged donors gave at 2 times the rate of all donors.
  • Gifts $10,000-$24,999: Highly engaged donors gave at 3 times the rate of all donors.
  • Gifts $25,000-$49,999: Highly engaged donors gave at 4 times the rate of all donors.
  • Gifts $50,000 and up: Highly engaged donors gave at 5 times the rate of all donors.

The more an organization can cultivate engagement, the more it will see giving increase over time, especially among mid-level and major donors.

The key is focusing on the three elements of trust that drive engagement: credibility, reliability, and intimacy.

This means communicating transparently and consistently, following through on promises, and personalizing interactions. Donors who trust an organization, talk about it, and feel valued will become partners in its mission.

For fundraising programs seeking sustainable growth, investment in donor engagement will yield significant dividends.

While tactics like increasing call volumes or events may boost short-term dollars, engagement builds lifetime value and transforms donors into advocates and ambassadors. For long-term funding, engagement is the strategic “X factor” that multiplies giving across the donor pyramid.

Nonprofits that make engagement a priority will thrive. Those that don’t risk being left behind.

Get the full recording for this Donor Participation Project session in our resource library!

Case Study Donor Participation Project

The Value of Building Trust: How Engagement Leads to Dollars

For nonprofit fundraisers, building trust with donors is essential.

Donor relationships built on trust and engagement lead to more consistent and larger gifts over time.

However, many organizations struggle to make the case for investing in engagement. A recent podcast featuring fundraising experts Louis Diez and Ron Cohen provides data-driven insights on how trust pays off.

Diez and Cohen’s analysis of nearly 10,000 donors from multiple organizations found a clear correlation between donors’ level of engagement and lifetime giving.

Donors who reported interacting with an organization at least five times in the past year and said they felt “always” or “very often” valued gave at higher levels. For example, donors who gave between $2,500 to $10,000 were twice as likely to be highly engaged as the average donor.

Highly engaged donors were five times more likely to have made gifts over $100,000.

Extrapolating from these findings, Cohen estimates that increasing the number of highly engaged donors—even modestly—could result in over $1 million in additional lifetime revenue. Of course, revenue generation is not guaranteed, but focusing on engagement and trust-building strengthens relationships in a way that motivates giving.

How can organizations build trust and increase engagement? Cohen and Diez recommend reporting back to donors on surveys and campaigns to show their impact, acknowledging all gifts sincerely, and inviting more touchpoints that make donors feel valued.

  • For major donors, that may mean in-person meetings.
  • For annual fund donors, sharing stories of how gifts were used can help build emotional connections.

While relationships take work, focusing on engagement and trust pays long-term dividends.

Diez urges organizations not to see engagement as a “wishy-washy feel good thing” but as a strategic imperative.

By valuing and cultivating supportive communities, organizations build goodwill that generates revenue and spreads through advocacy and word-of-mouth.

Though soft on the surface, trust produces hard results.

The data shows engagement matters—and building trust leads to dollars.

Get the full recording for this Donor Participation Project session in our resource library!

Case Study Resources

Presenting: NFT Sponsorships

This program has been discontinued. Information below kept for historical purposes.

The “Name My Desk” NFT confers upon you the exclusive naming rights to my desk for up to two full weeks (14 consecutive days). During this period, my desk will be known as the “{{Recognition Name}} Desk” in all official publications. As a bonus, I may feature the recognition name of the current NFT holder in the DPP LinkedIn Live series as well as in other social media posts. Here is what the recognition plaque looks like:

I will make every effort to display a daily photo of my desk at this URL.

The main innovation over a regular sponsorship is that after you’ve used your sponsorship, you can resell the NFT to pass on the rights to another person! A portion of every sale will benefit the Donor Participation Project.

How the NFT Sponsorship Works

  1. When you buy the NFT on, a secret passcode will unlock. Email me with the passcode and the recognition name that you want displayed.
  2. If I am unable to verify that you are the owner of the NFT, I may ask that you jump on a screen share with me so you can show me the NFT in your wallet.
  3. You can then provide a {{Recognition Name}}, which I will print and will be displayed on my desk for up to 14 consecutive days, or until you sell the NFT.
  4. I reserve all rights to determine whether your {{Recognition Name}} is appropriate and may decline to add the one you suggest or ask that you suggest another one. Typically, recognition names should be a company or a person’s name.
  5. If at any time and for any reason I am unable to continue to display your name on my desk, your desk will still be known as the “{{Recognition Name}} Desk” for the agreed-upon time period. If the program is ever discontinued, I will post the news on this web page. I strongly suggest that you visit this web page to view the current status of the program.
  6. After you’ve benefitred from your sponsorship, you can resell the NFT to pass on the rights to another person. A portion of every sale will benefit the Donor Participation Project.

Value proposition

This naming opportunity may be especially valuable to you right now if you:

  • Believe strongly in the mission of the Donor Participation Project and want to support it. Every NFT purchase supports the Donor Participation Project.
  • Believe that the increasing awareness and reach of the Donor Participation Project (0 to 1,000+ DPP members and doubled number of LinkedIn followers in year 1; accepted in LinkedIn Creator Accelerator; planning first conference in the Spring of 2022) will make these sponsorship rights more valuable in the future. In this case, the rational behavior is to purchase the NFT right now, at any price.
  • Operate a business that would benefit from reaching the Donor Participation Project’s audience of thought leaders in nonprofit fundraising.
  • Have some cryptocurrency, already own too many make-believe sneakers or gorillas, and want some recognition of your accomplishments in the real world.

Case Study Donor Participation Project

W&M’s Successful Donor Participation Strategy

Video only available to Donor Participation Project members.

This session has passed. DPP members can access a video recording, slides, and other materials shared by the presenter. We also hold a small group discussion the week after every presentation for further discussion and networking! Make sure to sign up here to get access.

Matthew Lambert, CEO, William & Mary Foundation, and Dan Frezza,  Associate Vice President for Strategic Operations & Annual Giving guided a Donor Participation Project session on the details of their successful alumni giving participation strategy during their last campaign.

Some interesting takeaways were:

  • Every donor interaction mentioned the three campaign goals of increasing alumni engagement, increasing alumni giving participation, and reaching the campaign’s dollar goal.
  • They exploded their alumni engagement from about 10,000 touchpoints with alumni per year at the start of the campaign to over 30,000 by the last year of the campaign.
  • They grew their Class Ambassadors program from 200 to over 800 volunteers.
  • Their Giving Day also grew exponentially, and they viewed it as both an engagement and giving participation opportunity.
  • Leadership (President, Board, VP Advancement) must make participation a priority.
  • It is not a matter of either raising given dollar amounts OR achieving a participation goal, it has to be seen as giving AND participation.
  • Success requires a broad-based focus, across campus.
  • Diversification of the donor base is key (i.e. women in philanthropy, underrepresented populations).
  • The main indicators of giving habits are: giving history, consistency, frequency, and gift amount.
  • You must choose one among these three high-level goals: Retention, Reactivation, Acquisition. It will most likely be Retention.
  • With Reactivation, time is not on your side. After 5 years, donors are as likely to come back as a non-donor.
  • In the Acquisition bucket, newly graduated students were an important source of growth.
  • Key drivers of their success were: increased retention (year over year giving), increased gift frequency (within a year), stewardship of good behavior (i.e. consecutive giving society).

Learn more about the Donor Participation Project and sign up here.

Case Study

Top 10 Private University Graduate School

Graduate School Sees Alumni Participation Growth to 34% with Giving Events Strategy

Case Study

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Day of Giving

Day of Giving and Website Effectiveness Assessment Increased Online Gifts by 343%