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Donor Participation Project

How Engagement Leads to Dollars

Engagement is more than a feel-good tactic for nonprofits. Done right, an engagement strategy can directly lead to increased giving and revenue. Fundraisers Ron Cohen and Louis Diez recently discussed data showing how organizations can put a “dollar amount on engagement.”

Cohen shared a story of Wabash College creating memorial book plates to honor deceased alumni. Though the families weren’t asked for donations, many visited campus and became ambassadors for the school. Engagement built trust and spread goodwill, with untapped potential for future giving.

Diez said to “look at your donors and the ones who have given the most. Try to measure how loyal they’ve been.”

Their data shows donors who have given for 6-11 consecutive years typically make much larger lifetime gifts. The more people feel engaged with your work, the more they give.

Cohen and Diez surveyed 9,000 donors and found that those who “meet or discuss the organization at least 5 times a year and always or very often feel valued” gave at rates up to 5 times higher in each giving level. For example, while 0.5% of all donors gave over $100,000 lifetime, 2.5% of highly engaged donors were in this top category. Focusing engagement on just an additional 4% of donors could result in over $1 million in new gifts.

The presenters call this the “X factor”—the potential for exponential growth by engaging the right groups. But engagement is a long game. As Diez said, “It’s not that more of the people who gave $100 last year will give $200 this year. Engagement builds loyalty and trust over years through accountability and transparency.”

While it can be difficult to make the case for investment in engagement, Cohen argues, “it’s just the right thing to do, and organizations need to be trusted in order to be invested in.” By building real relationships with transparency and follow-through, nonprofits can strengthen loyalty, spread goodwill, and see the dollars follow. Engagement leads to giving when done with the right motivations and the long view.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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