Individual donors include the millions of people and families who donate through penny drives, volunteering, or even multi-million dollar endowments. While the typical individual contribution is small, the numbers add up quickly. In 2016 alone, individual giving totaled $280 billion dollars in the United States – nearly 5 times more than all US foundations gave that same year.
Individuals and families willingly give away their money for many reasons. The largest motivator for individual giving is religion, but personal satisfaction, societal obligation, and an emotional stake in the cause are also important influences. Individuals by and large give to organizations they feel a connection to. Unlike institutional donors, individuals rarely analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a project proposal. Instead, they tend to respond better to personal stories and testimonials rather than full proposals. These generalities tend to hold true no matter if asking for very small or very large donations, so marketing towards individuals should take these considerations into account.
Donations from individuals can be great sources of unrestricted funding for NGOs. A strong base of small donations can cover core costs other donors may be unwilling to pay for. No proposals needed! Fundraising from individual community members is also how many NGOs get their initial funding. But expanding and sustaining an NGO’s network of individual donors beyond the local community can be much more difficult. This is a reason why many larger NGOs choose to focus more resources on submitting proposals for new projects.
Tips for Approaching Individuals
- The first step towards soliciting individual donors is to reach out to your own personal networks – family, friends, local community, previous beneficiaries, etc. While the amounts may or may not be significant, these groups are typically the easiest to convert into long-time donors.
- Use your organization’s website, newsletter, and social media to gain a following and keep in touch with people interested in what you do. These people are more likely to donate if asked.
- Develop marketing plans to strategically target groups of individuals.
- Crowdfunding using platforms such as GlobalGiving can connect your NGO to donors worldwide.
- Always thank your donors – no matter how small the donation – and save their contact information.