Kaodro [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
September 11, 2019; EMS1.com

Today’s feature discusses the trend toward fewer donating households, which has been masked to some extent by the increasing dollar total of gifts from the ultra-wealthy in the US. It’s a sign that the nonprofit sector’s overall ability to attract and engage the public as donors is decreasing, which should send alarm signals through the sector.

Each organization should reconsider the importance of their engagement programs—including donor engagement. We will make it our business here at NPQ to help with that by highlighting efforts at engaging individual donors and encouraging donors of small to mid-size gifts. That’s where this story fits in.

A nonprofit called Charity Share Times Square uses a billboard to celebrate not only its cause, but donors of gifts of even the most modest size. The organization raises money for a cause that is acutely New York: programs that attend to the ongoing medical and other issues of 9/11 first responders. Any donation above $25 is a reason to celebrate the donor, whose picture will be displayed on the iconic Times Square billboard with a banner reading, “I Haven’t Forgotten.”

Donors are asked to submit a photo for the sign, and should they choose, they can instead post a picture of someone they knew who felt the impact of the events of September 11th or a hero in their life they wish to honor. The intent is to build a donor list of 10,000 people.

While this approach may be extra flashy, and we don’t know much about the sponsoring organization, the campaign has elements of engagement we thought deserved some attention:

  • It celebrates not just the cause, but the donor.
  • It allows the donor to add their presence to the cause in an obvious, personal way.
  • It grounds people in a physical experience. Billboards in Times Square are iconic, and 9/11 is woven into the fabric of New York City.

NPQ would love to receive letters and articles from readers who are revamping their donor programs to help their organizations focus on this very important task of re-engagement.—Ruth McCambridge