3 Ways Community Foundations Can Become the Donor’s Choice

January 22, 2016 Charlie Vanek

This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

We know people like to give. According to the latest statistics from the Urban Institute, donors gave over $350 billion in 2014, a five percent increase from 2013. And with 2015 data on the way, I’m sure we’ll see similar increases in people’s generosity this year.

While this is wonderful news for nonprofits and foundations, these organizations still face a significant challenge: how to be the donor’s choice amid a wealth of giving options.

Donors have more than 1.5 million U.S. nonprofits to choose from. And they’re asking questions such as, ‘Should I support the global animal welfare organization or the local animal shelter?’ ‘Wounded Warriors or the city’s chapter for veterans?’ ‘St. Jude’s or the Ronald McDonald House around the corner?’

These questions aren’t all that different from the ones asked of nonprofits. People like to support nonprofits, but they want to know they’re making the best decision. They want to support organizations making the most difference—the ones achieving specific and measurable impact.

So, how does your community foundation become the donor’s choice? It happens in three ways.


Donors are often overwhelmed by the number of causes to fund. Their confusion is complicated by the lack of specific information about those causes. First, they may not be aware of the needs in their area. Second, they may not know what organizations and nonprofits exist in the local community or the impactful effects they’re having.

Both types of information are vital. If donors don’t know the need, they can hardly be blamed for not contributing. If they know the need but aren’t empowered to meet it, the same is true.

Donors need clear, actionable information, and you need to deliver it where they are. Know your audience and use communication channels like social media, email newsletters, print materials (they’re still important!), your website’s blog, and local events to drive awareness, interest, and engagement.


The second element to becoming the donor’s go-to giving source is trust. Information only goes so far. To be effective, it has to be delivered with credibility and authenticity.

This is why transparency and authenticity are so important. Donors need to know that you genuinely care about your community and its needs. That’s how trust forms.

As a community foundation, you can offer expertise and advice. Many donors are either overwhelmed or under-informed. What they need is a funding adviser.

Foundations have the best opportunity to be the bridge between organizations and donors. Remove the gap between the two by sharing your information and expertise while establishing your organization as a trusted, valuable resource.


In addition to sharing information and building trust, focus on enhancing the giving experience through Donor Advised Funds (DAF). Leveraging technology reduces complexity and makes funding your community foundation convenient.

To provide donors with an attractive technology-enabled experience, offer them an online donor portal and brand your portal with your colors, logos, and other graphics to reinforce your unique organization. And remember, a portal is an extension of your foundation. It shouldn’t be bolted on because “everybody else is doing it.”

Convenience is critical. You want to make it simple for donors to choose your foundation. Donors should be able to access their donor information on the portal whenever they want from wherever they are. Keep mobile top-of-mind when designing your donor experience and you’ll see adoption and use of your donor portal increase.

Reducing complexity returns us to the beginning: making sure a donor chooses you amid a sea of options. A funding portal can help donors make informed decisions and strengthens the relationship between you and them.

You can become the giving choice for more donors. When you deliver relevant information about your area and its needs, establish trust through serving as a funding adviser, and provide a convenient donor portal, donors will look to you as a worthy choice.

Instead of donors finding themselves overwhelmed by a wealth of choice, you’ll find yourself as the choice for a wealth of funding.

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