By Tim Sarrantonio, Director of Corporate Brand at Neon One

The average person receives 10,000 advertisements per day; a nonprofit organization needs to think about tapping into a moment where someone wants to give and turn it into long-term momentum.

To best help fundraisers understand these shifting patterns in communication and donor behavior specifically, we will outline the critical moments donors respond to for donating and provide actionable suggestions on implementing the most effective ways to turn that situational gift into a lasting relationship.

Why are giving moments so important?

Before diving into the data, it is crucial to start with the psychology on the moment itself to understand why tapping into a giving moment is vital for your communications and fundraising strategy.

In Francesco Ambrogetti’s fantastic book Hooked On A Feeling, he outlines research from Daniel Kahneman that explains how humans make decisions. Specifically relating to giving, he says, “Our memory cycle is organized, according to Kahneman, in a peak-end form. We remember little: the beginning, the peaks (the extreme positive or extremely negative experiences), and the end. That’s why donors don’t even remember when asked whether they support a cause.”

In the Donor Retention: Self Assessment Workshop, research outlines that obtaining $1 from a donor for the first time actually costs a nonprofit $1.25, whereas keeping that same donor’s $1 is only $0.20 in subsequent years. When combined with the understanding that many donors will likely have little memory of the gift in the first place, this makes tapping into that first-time gift extremely critical for an organization’s long-term sustainability.

What does research tell us about giving behavior?

There is new research from both Neon One as well as the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that informs what donors are doing when it comes to both when they prefer to give as well as how this impacts donor retention.

First, let’s start with when donors are preferring to give during the day and week. When thinking about the best time of the week or day to ask donors for money, especially if focusing on an immediate contribution, it is important to center your community first. Timing is everything, and some trends are pretty obvious on when donors are more likely to give.

With a focus on online giving only due to accuracy, Neon One analyzed when donors were more likely to offer during the week and what time during the day they gave. The results were pretty obvious, with some key points to explore further:

In general, we found that individuals are more likely to donate during the week and in the early afternoon. A critical point to note is that the Neon One Dataset wasn’t directly indexed with the data related to emails sent during these times. However, the sheer amount of contributions showcases an exceptional analysis of online giving behavior for donors of all types.

Second, let’s look at when a donor gives in the calendar year and its impact on retention. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project discovered that donors who give on the last day of the year have a lifetime value 15% higher than the average donor. It also found that donors whose first gift was in November or December have a retention rate that is 53% higher than those making their first gift from January through October.

Donors who give in November and December are not necessarily less motivated by the organization’s mission, are not just giving at year-end for tax purposes, and/or are not making a quick, scatter-shot gift. Over 40% of these donors gave a second gift to a charity, compared to just 26% of January-to-October donors who gave a second gift.

Resource: benchmark against your own mission and giving types with Neon One’s new Donor Impact Data Hub


What can fundraisers do with this information?

While this research is useful to help fundraisers think about what to focus on, it is also important to tie these insights with actionable applications. Using the framework of moments outlined by Francesco Ambrogetti in his book as inspiration, let’s focus on six key actions that nonprofits can take to help tap into a giving moment for future retention success.

  • Step One – be personal in your immediate communication with the donor. As Bloomerang outlines, the top five communication tactics your organization can deploy are all personal and specific to the donor.
  • Step Two – deploy human-centric automation. A specific example from Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s new book is to deploy chatbots that are partnered with humans to ensure automation workflows have the subtext and empathy only humans deliver on.
  • Step Three – invest in micro-moments during your gratitude process. Beyond that initial thank you, an organization can deploy consistent touchpoints of gratitude that include phone calls, anniversary cards, and behind-the-scenes postcards.
  • Step Four – think deeply about how you can create connections with donors in their own life experiences. The start of a new job, the birth of a child, the death of a family member – these are important moments where a nonprofit can play an emotional role in the experience if done thoughtfully.
  • Step Five – some of an organization’s strongest supporters come from individuals who were presented with a problem during their giving experience yet were blown away by stellar donor service to solve it. Invest in the donor experience at all stages of the gift.
  • Step Six – when thinking about donor buckets of communication, consider shifting your internal language from lapsed donors to referring to them as being on a pause or donation holiday.

There are many ways to help create a memorable experience for your donors from their first gift to their lasting legacy, but it all starts with a foundational understanding of human psychology around wanting to establish a meaningful relationship with a cause they want to care deeply about.

When we show donors that we care about them just as much as they care about us (and more!) then it can be the core strategy behind a retention-centric generosity ecosystem within your nonprofit.


Author Bio:

Tim Sarrantonio is an internationally renowned speaker on generosity, technology, and the trends in the social good sector. After helping various causes raise over $3 million, he then moved into providing support for thousands of nonprofits through his work at Neon One. He has spoken at AFPICON, NTC, TEDx, and holds a Certificate in Philanthropic Psychology from the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy. He lives in upstate NY with his lovely wife, three lovely daughters, and two cats.