Individuals provide valuable resources to third sector organisations - from loose change thrown into collection buckets by members of the public to monthly direct debits from your committed supporters and major gifts from leading philanthropists.

According to UK Giving, an annual survey of charitable giving behaviour in the UK during 2011

  • £11 billion was given by individuals
  • Average (mean) monthly amount donated is £31 (however, this figure is skewed by a small number of major gifts)
  • A more useful indicator of the 'average gift' is the (median) which is £11
  • Those most likely to give are women aged 45-64 and people in managerial and professional occupations
  • Most common method of donation is cash
  • Digital giving is increasing although still much less common than other methods
  • Medical research is the most widely supported cause, followed by hospital/hospices and children/young people

Here you will find out how to develop relationships with your supporters and increase individual giving. Any third sector organisation can develop an individual giving programme. It doesn't need huge investment but what is certain is that success requires a strategic approach.

Donor recruitment

The recruitment of new donors is one of the major challenges of developing an individual giving programme. You should see it as a long-term investment.  If you cultivate successful relationships with these donors, that initial investment is repaid and additional income is generated over time if the donor continues to give.

Methods of recruiting donors

  • Direct mail- refers to sending letters - or other marketing materials - by post and remains the most common method of donor recruitment even though it has become far less cost-effective in recent years
  • List swaps (reciprocals)- third sector organisations often swap names of supporters for use in recruitment campaigns.  These lists are often more responsive than 'cold' lists.  In order to comply with data protection legislation names can only be exchanged if donors have had the opportunity to opt out
  • Advertising campaigns- are generally expensive and often the returns are lower than the costs but it can be a useful means of attracting new supporters to your cause
  • Inserts- Some charities successfully make use of inserts in magazines and newspapers to recruit new donors
  • Face-to-face fundraising- where you employ a Professional Fundraising Organisation to recruit donors either on the street or door-to-door.  It is expensive in the short-term but in the long-term is a good source of income as once signed up to direct debits most do not cancel them.  The profile of donors recruited face-to-face tends to be younger than those recruited, for example, through direct mail
  • Telephone- is becoming an important means of fundraising whether to recruit collectors for house-to-house collections, provide a donation line, or to convert one-off donors to committed givers
  • Digital- the internet and other digital media such as e-mail and mobile text messaging are providing increasing opportunities for fundraising

Top tip - keep an eye out for what other charities are doing.  Gather examples of direct mail, inserts and adverts.  Think about who the target market is for these and, if you are the target market, if it works.

Donor development planning

Charities have to invest in the recruitment of new donors, but existing donors will always be the most cost-effective source of donations.  Donor development is therefore needed to maximize the profitability of every relationship. 

An effective donor database is key to donor development to identify different types of donor and their actual and potential value to the organisation.  In developing a donor database you will need to ensure that you comply with Data Protection legislation.  The Institute of Fundraising suggests that fundraisers might find the following rules of thumb useful:

  • Do not retain any information on a donor or a prospect that your organisation would not be comfortable sharing with that donor or prospect
  • Do not use information in a manner that a donor would not wish
  • Do not share data in a manner that a donor would not wish.

For further information see their Code of Practice on Data Protection.