A university in Chile recently conducted in-depth interviews with long-time donors to better understand their motivations and desires. The results revealed that loyal donors want more opportunities to engage with the institution they have supported for years.
The university had previously relied on assumptions about what donors wanted based on industry research rather than directly asking supporters. They worried more communication and requests might irritate loyal donors or be seen as bothersome.
However, donor interviews uncovered strong interest in increased contact and chances to participate in the university community.
Donors reported they continue to give to support the university’s longevity and impact.
They feel a strong connection to the institution and want to help ensure its future. While donors appreciated being informed about the impact of their gifts, many said they likely wouldn’t closely read reports but wanted them as a sign of accountability.
The most surprising and actionable insight was donors’ interest in more invitations to campus events where they could connect with students, faculty, and other donors. Nearly all said they would welcome more frequent communication by email and phone and chances to refer friends to support the university.
For universities and nonprofits, these findings underscore the importance of speaking directly to donors to confirm or counter assumptions. Loyal donors may be far more open to engagement than expected if they feel a strong connection to the mission. An open-ended survey or series of interviews can reveal possibilities for better serving and further engaging valuable long-term donors.
With more opportunities to participate on campus and spread the word about the university, these dedicated supporters may become powerful ambassadors and open doors to even more philanthropic giving. Giving donors meaningful ways to do more for a cause they care deeply about can transform a transactional interaction into a lasting and mutually rewarding relationship. Overall, the moral of this story is simple: don’t be afraid to ask. Your most devoted donors will likely be thrilled you did.
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