25 August 2021 | Article | Shaz Elanie

Upgrading your donors: Must do or nice-to-have?

You’re great at acquiring and retaining donors. Now, what about upgrading them?

Having regular donors who agree to upsize their monthly gifts might seem like a lucky find, but you’ll be surprised by the number of donors who would love to contribute more.

With the challenges in recruiting new donors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, having an integrated and robust upgrade strategy can support you in meeting your fundraising goals.

But why would someone give even more, when they’re already giving?

Many factors may influence a donor’s decision to upgrade, and their motivation truly varies from person to person. However, successful upgrades can be broadly attributed to three key factors:

1. Trust

• Donors believe in your cause and support your work
• High level of confidence in your organisation and the ability to make a positive impact
• The impact of their monetary donation is evident

In other words, you’ve done a good job in continuously communicating and engaging your donors.

2. Donor circumstances have changed
From the time a donor has signed up to the time they are asked for an upgrade, their personal lives have progressed. They could have just finished paying off student loans/mortgage or received pay increases and have more disposable income. This translates to your donors being in a better position to contribute more to a cause they believe in.

3. They were simply asked
There are many generous samaritans out there, but not everyone wakes up in the morning with a burning need to call up a charity to “upgrade a donation”. However, when presented with an opportunity to give more, you’d be surprised by people and their innate desire to contribute for a better world. The responsibility of creating that opportunity, however, lies on you, the charity organisation, to make that ask.

“I’m still not convinced.” It’s not easy to convince someone to give more to charity. But, it’s not impossible.

Take this case study as an example.

A charity (let’s call them Charity X) was looking to optimise current donor contributions because COVID-19 has, to put it mildly, limited their ability to acquire new donors.

As a solution, SG Support enhanced Charity X’s revenue-generating capabilities by upgrading their donor contributions. We called existing donors (who had not been previously asked) to consider increasing their monthly gift contributions to support the charity.

What transpired was beyond the charity’s expectations.

Out of the 1,058 donors contacted and pitched to, 508 donors agreed to upsize their monthly contribution from USD 11 to USD 20.

What this meant for Charity X:

 Before Upgrade CallAfter Upgrade Call
Average GiftUSD 11USD 20
Total Monthly DonationsUSD 4,947USD 9,069

If Charity X hadn’t contacted donors to upsize, their monthly total net donations would have remained at USD 4,947. Instead, through the short activity, Charity X’s monthly donations increased to USD 9,069.

This is an 83% increase in monthly revenue! Without having to look for new donors, Charity X has increased their monthly revenue by USD 4,122.

What can we learn from that?

  1. When acquisition is halted, look into optimising your current donors.
  2. Be bold in your ask – donors are more willing to donate to a cause they already believe in. Many donors are also willing to give a one-time additional gift.
  3. Keep a clean and up-to-date donor base. Without the ability to contact, donors would not have been given the opportunity to upsize their donation.

You’re devoting your life, your spirit, your energy, your faith into making the vision you have of a better future into a reality, so why are you so scared to ask people for money?

Sasha Dichter, noted speaker and blogger on philanthropy and social change

I’m in! How should I start?

There are multiple ways and different strategies that work in tandem with the setup of your donor retention journey. It also boils down to your short or long-term objectives and the understanding of your donor profiles.

As a starter, here are three ways you could get started:

1. Ask for an upgrade at the end of a call
When you have a specific reason to call a donor (e.g. to update their personal details), you could supercharge that call to upsize their donation. Whilst you have them on the phone, ask for an upgrade of donation with a clear pitch in mind.

• Your primary call objective is fulfilled.
• Anyone that says ‘YES’ to an upgrade is a bonus!

• Upgrades may be perceived as ‘nice-to-have’ but not urgent.
• Too many objectives in one call can make monitoring tricky.

2. Upgrade at a defined interval
Set up an internal routine to upgrade your donors. You could define the interval based on how long the donor has been with your organisation or how many gifts they have successfully contributed. Approaching upgrade calls with a defined interval allows for greater integration of mixed communication channels to your donor journey.

• Allows upgrade calls to be process-driven and ensures donors that meet the identified criteria are given the opportunity.
• Upgraded donors have a history of successful gift collections, thereby reducing the risk of subsequent unsuccessful gift collections.

• Timeline between calls needs to be monitored to avoid calling the same donor too many times.
• Being too process-driven in asking for donation upgrade might come across as merely “ticking the checkboxes”.

3. Upgrade based on donation value
If you’ve recently readjusted your fundraising goals and need the increase in monthly donations, you can target donors whose gift value falls under a specific donation range and bring them up. However, it should be noted that you could also upgrade donors on a higher existing donation amount as they are more likely to have a greater disposable income.

• Higher ROI on a donor initially recruited on a lower gift amount.
• Balances your overall donor base metrics.

• Everyone’s circumstances are different. Hence, segmenting on their chosen donation value might not be reflective of their ability to upsize their contribution.
• Donor’s history of gift collection becomes secondary when asking for an upgrade.

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to upgrading your donors and the only way to find out which approach works best for your organisation (and donors) is to experiment and fine-tune your strategy along the way.

What strategies have you tried to upgrade your donors? How have they worked out for you? Share with us at consulting@sgsupport.com or get in touch with us here!

About SG Support

Managing over 3 million donor records, SG Support exists to make fundraising easy for charities. We work with them to acquire new donors, retain existing ones and win back those who have left. We do this through our complete suite of services that range from data-driven strategy and consultancy, all the way down to the operational aspects of payment processing, contact centre and financial reporting.

Contact us at consulting@sgsupport.com or drop us a message at here.

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