Gifts from individuals: increasing the lifetime value

The quickest way to raise more money from individuals is to increase the amount your existing donors are giving you. This is often referred to as maximising the ‘lifetime value’ of a donor. It costs a lot more, both in terms of time and money, to recruit new donors, so it’s important to look after the ones you already have.

Larger voluntary organisations will often have a lifetime value plan that takes donors on a journey through different ways of giving that relate to their interests. For example:

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Figure 6 The donor is recruited, perhaps at a community event. It is a face-to-face point of contact with a volunteer or staff member. They might be asked to make a donation at the event, but their details will also be taken so that the charity can get back in touch with them in the future
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Figure 7 After the event, they will then be contacted and asked to sign up to become a regular donor, perhaps by describing ‘X amount per month will allow us to do Y’
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Figure 8 Once the person is signed up to a regular amount, the charity will then offer other opportunities to give such as: one-off appeals (for example when there has been a disaster that the charity is responding to); opportunities to buy merchandise (Christmas cards is the classic example); and becoming a volunteer fundraiser themselves, perhaps taking part in a sponsored challenge (such as a marathon) or organising a community fundraising event (such as a coffee morning)
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Figure 9 At some point, the donor might be asked whether they feel able to increase their donation and will be introduced to the idea of leaving a gift in their will

The trick to maintaining and maximising the loyalty of existing supporters is to think about two things:

  • their motivation for giving

  • their ability to give more.

You can try to work these two things out based on the information you have about the donor. For example, do they have a job? Where do they live? Are they involved in any hobbies? How did they first get in touch with the charity? Charities developing major donor programmes (i.e. when they’ll be asking for large amounts of money from an individual) often use wealth-screening companies to find out as much as they can about potential donors. Providing opportunities and information that are tailored to the motivation of those able to give more is most likely to generate more money.

Increasing the lifetime value of a donor has to be underpinned by strong marketing and communications. For instance, the organisation will need to keep in touch with donors, keep them informed about what the charity is doing and show them how their support is making a difference. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Many charities communicate effectively with their donors using social media or emails.

Activity 7

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes.

Below is a short description of a small charity that needs to raise more money and a list of different fundraising ideas.

Charity A is a local visual arts organisation working with adults with disabilities. The charity raises the majority of its income from individual donations (gifts). This is mostly collected through local events, raffles and sponsored challenges. The fundraising is undertaken by a small but loyal group of volunteers, the majority of whom have a personal connection to the charity. They now need to raise £30,000 to cover the cost of staffing and equipment for a new art class for people with disabilities. They will also need around £50,000 to cover the charity’s general running costs in the next two years.

Which three of the following ideas would you advise the charity to try first in order to raise more money from their existing supporters?

  • A fundraising product, such as ‘buy a book’ or ‘buy some art materials for a disabled artist’

  • a crowdfunding appeal for new equipment

  • charging to hire out their building facilities to the community

  • holding a showcasing event, letting supporters directly see the charity’s work

  • a membership scheme (asking donors to ‘join’ for a regular amount, usually to receive a benefit or pledge support for a cause)

  • applying for grants to pay for more services

  • seeking sponsorship from a company


It is suggested that the charity try:

  • A challenge for Charity A is that their small group of volunteers cannot give much more themselves, and they are having to repeatedly ask their friends and family to donate. Creating a fundraising product will provide a new opportunity for donors to feel they could give again and is also likely to present an opportunity to capture the donors’ details so that the charity can communicate with them directly in future.

  • Launching a crowdfunding appeal will also present the opportunity to capture details online for future contact, and also to attract new donors and spread the word about the charity.

  • Running a showcasing event could support both of these ideas by helping donors to better understand the aims of the charity and to become directly involved with the charity, paving the way for more types of fundraising in the future.

2.3 Raising more money

Grants: Writing better bids