What Donors Value from their Community Foundation: Communication

This post from former CEP Senior Research Analyst Mark Chaffin originally appeared on the blog in May 2014. It is reposted here as part of our Rewind blog series.

In our research report What Donors Value: How Community Foundations Can Increase Donor Satisfaction, Referrals, and Future Giving, we explored why donor satisfaction matters at community foundations and what donor perceptions best predict it. We noted that, while not the most important predictor of donor satisfaction, communication with donors is crucial. The frequency of a foundation’s communications with its donors and the extent to which staff clearly communicate the foundation’s goals are, to some extent, related to a wide variety of donor perceptions.

Frequency of Communication

The frequency with which a community foundation communicates with its donors is related to their overall satisfaction, their likelihood to recommend the foundation, the extent to which they believe the foundation has an impact on the community, the extent to which they believe the foundation exhibits a leadership role in the community, and their perceptions of foundation staffs’ responsiveness when they have a question or need assistance, just to name a few.

Donors who have more frequent contact with the foundation tend to rate these dimensions more positively. This trend is consistent across all modes of contact, including receiving personal e-mails or phone calls from the foundation, having in-person meetings with foundation staff, attending foundation events, or receiving general information via regular mail or e-mail.

Communication of the Foundation’s Goals

We learned from looking at our dataset of donor perceptions that most donors believe their community foundation does a good job clearly communicating its goals to them. The more clearly donors find their foundation to have communicated its goals to them:

  • the more satisfied they are with the foundation overall;
  • the higher they rate the foundation on the extent to which it is both making an impact on the community and exhibiting a leadership role in the community; and
  • the more likely they are to report being satisfied with the foundation’s 1.) leadership in the community, 2.) investment strategy and performance, and 3.) administrative fees and costs.

While communication may not be the key to donor satisfaction, its relationship to donors’ perceptions of many aspects of the foundations to which they give, including those that are strong predictors of donor satisfaction, suggests it is still important. Community foundations need to pay close attention to how frequently, and how clearly, they are communicating with their donors. 

Mark Chaffin is a former senior research analyst at CEP.

communications, community foundations, donor perceptions, donors, rewind
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