Posted , by Natalie McGaughey, Development Coordinator. Topic: Philanthropy Research & Events.

For the past four years we have looked forward to reviewing statistics on donor behavior from the Cygnus Donor Survey. This is an annual research study of active American donors that charts recent giving experiences and future philanthropic intentions. It is led by author, researcher, and president of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., Penelope Burk. The 2012 survey assessed 708,000 participants’ responses to questions on monthly giving, sponsorship and participation in athletic-based fundraising events, nonprofit websites, and donors’ management of their giving. Participants’ answers reinforce the statement that giving is continuing to be sustained in The United States with 54% of respondents supporting the same number of causes in 2011 as they had in 2010. Along with the steady support of causes, 41% of survey respondents gave more in 2011 than in 2010. Donors who gave more in 2011 attribute their increased generosity to improvement in their personal financial situation and the effort nonprofits made to do good work. As an indication for this year, 28% of survey respondents expect to give more in 2012 than in 2011.

As a nonprofit how can you attract donors? 83% of Cygnus Survey respondents said they researched the organizations they were considering supporting. Most commonly this research was done via the internet. 32% of survey participants said they gave to a nonprofit because of what they learned on that organization’s website. This demonstrates how important it is for nonprofits to have a clearly stated mission and compelling reasons to support their cause on their site.

Another interesting finding from the survey is donors’ frustration with over-solicitation. Majority of respondents said they reduced or eliminated their support to charities that continued to ask for money. Nonprofits must find a balance between keeping donors informed and continuing to foster a relationship, without overwhelming or annoying them. We are often advising about the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with your donors by properly cultivating them on an individualized, personal basis. Ask them how they prefer to hear from you–phone, email, regular mail, and record this information in your database. Prove to the donor you are listening and responding to their request.

A final data point we found worth noting is that 40% of the surveyed donors have, in the last five years, shifted their support towards nonprofits working locally in their communities. We talked about the trend toward local philanthropy in a recent Inside Business editorial by our president Keith Curtis on corporate giving, and the Cygnus Survey shows a parallel shift with individuals. Nonprofit leaders should demonstrate to local donors the impact their potential gift will have in their community.

To learn more on The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey and to read the full executive summary, visit the Cygnus Research website.

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