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Motivating major donors to give to digital appeals


Here at Hubbub, we champion the integration of digital appeals and major gift relationship building. Usually, this involves encouraging major donors to provide a match or challenge gift as a way of boosting participation numbers from those in the mass participation category. Through working with our partners worldwide, we’ve witnessed just how well this collaboration works when major gifts and annual giving teams come together to embrace engagement through their digital appeals.

For the innovators amongst us, combining efforts across major gifts and annual giving will be a technique that you’ve applied in digital appeals before, be they crowdfunding, giving days or larger digital campaigns. For others, this collaboration may be something that you’ve recently discovered through the launch of an emergency-related Covid-19 appeal. Or perhaps it’s something that you’ve heard mentioned but have yet to implement. Either way, the collaborative efforts shared between major gifts and annual giving are showing significant signs of success.

But what might we learn from understanding the motivations behind why major donors support these kinds of digital appeals? And how can we use that understanding to match major donors with those digital appeals that they might be most interested in supporting? In this post, we’re taking a look at these motivations, as well as where they can be utilised to increase overall success.

Major Donor Motivations

  • To inspire others
  • To demonstrate leadership
  • To create more income potential

When one person puts a significant amount of money behind a project, that usually tells others that they deeply believe in the cause. Their passion can start a movement and can be the catalyst for not just one or two other major donors to follow, but for hundreds or even thousands of people to make a gift. And when that gift is used as a match, it can be even more inspiring to those who are considering a gift.

According to the ‘A Great Match’, report commissioned by the Big Give, 84% of respondents believed that they would be more likely to give to a charity appeal if they were told that the donations would be matched and over 36% indicated that they only gave to a fundraising campaign because it was match funded.

These motivations can also be useful for those major donors who want to use their generosity as a sign of leadership or to help leverage more income from others with similar interests in a particular campaign.

Where this can be applied

Major gifts that are used to inspire and lead others can be particularly useful when planning a giving day. Giving days have an inherent electric feel about them, that when combined with match and challenge giving can take an average giving day to a whole nother level.

An initial match, where gifts are matched £ for £ (or $ for $ depending on your geo-location) can be useful for encouraging early donors to make their own gifts, knowing they’ll be worth double. Similarly, challenge donations can be used to encourage certain groups of donors to join in with a giving day - if they meet certain criteria upon making their gift.

For example, if one of the goals of a giving day is to increase donations from younger alumni, you could incentivise this group by creating a challenge that would unlock a certain amount of funding once the desired number of donors has been reached.

Either way, the major donor’s generosity is being used to inspire and lead others to follow in their footsteps.

Major Donor Motivations

  • To align giving with personal passions
  • To feel a part of a community
  • To highlight a cause they care about

If there is one thing that we’re learning about how digital helps to increase donor participation, it’s that giving in this way provides donors with a greater choice of where they can make a difference. While institutional priorities and appeals may attract some major donors, others may be attracted to opportunities that are closely tied to their own personal passions or those that can help to create communities of engaged donors.

The motivations of these donors are a bit more intrinsic and altruistic. Not making them better motivations, just different from those who are motivated by the opportunity for leadership. These donors don’t necessarily crave the spotlight, but rather the connections they had and the opportunity to maintain that through their generosity.

Where this can be applied

Student-led crowdfunding appeals are the perfect way to engage major donors with those initiatives that grab their attention on a personal level. In fact, crowdfunding projects that receive matched funding are more likely to reach the project’s minimum need than those that don’t receive matched funding. Rather than supporting larger projects, which will see the backing of multiple major donors, some donors may choose to support student-led projects, giving these projects an even greater chance for success.

For example, a donor who does feel a connection to their former institution, but who isn’t interested in giving to the latest capital project, may find a student-led crowdfunding project to be a better use of their philanthropy. With funding secured, the project can launch confidently knowing that they have seed funding that will help to get their project off the ground. This, in turn, can also increase the confidence of others considering a gift that their donation will be put to good use once the project reaches its overall goal.

In summary

This collaboration between annual giving and major gift teams can create powerful outcomes that benefit both donors and fundraising priorities. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that can help each team to reach its goals around income generation and participation, while both compilation the motivations of major donors and telling even more powerful stories of generosity.  

As a way of starting, or improving on this strategy, take time to understand the motivations of your donors and what may encourage their giving. Then look out for digital appeals that may best serve their motivations. It’s a win-win for donors and fundraisers alike.

If you’d like to learn more about ways to apply match and challenge donations to your digital appeals, or you have an experience of your own that you’d like to share, join our upcoming coffee chat on Thursday 25th June at 3pm BST.

Sign up here.


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