Micro-donations: Proving Size Doesn’t Always Matter

The Obama campaign, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and The American Red Cross have all embraced electronic micro-donation campaigns as an effective tool in gathering financial and community support for their causes. The prominence of these cases and their rampant success provides the evidence necessary for arts organizations to begin adopting this new technology to enhance their current giving campaigns. These organizations altered the traditional view of contributed income by looking at three hundred $10 donations as equal to and in many ways greater than one $3,000 donation. This logic has very little to do with the amount of money being given and much more to do with the amount of people giving it. Micro-donation campaigns are about involving as many people as possible and using their collective support to raise awareness as well as funds. They are not just about filling the coffers. They are about educating donors, building support, and cultivating future participation and giving.

A micro donation can be defined as a small gift usually given through electronic media and most often associated with the support of a cause, project, or individual. Point-and-click web based interfaces, e-mail, and SMS txt messaging are the most popular and effective platforms.

Reasons to start a micro-donation giving campaign:

  • Small time commitment from management
  • Little implementation cost leading to a large return on investment
  • Widening donor market segments
  • Generating new donors and interest
  • Creating ‘buzz’ and word-of-mouth support
  • Ease of social media integration
  • Building momentum, education, and visibility of the organization

Having acknowledged these benefits, micro-donation campaigns have not been proven effective for annual giving platforms, large gifts or operating funds. They have been proven effective in supporting specific projects, programs, campaigns, and Individuals.

A recent article written by Rich Mintz, the man behind both the Obama Campaign and the Haiti relief effort by the American Red Cross provided 5 big tips to help organizations set up a successful micro-donation campaigns and/or internet giving program.

  1. Make it easy to give money and sign up online
  2. Reward people who have just signed up with useful follow up contact and content
  3. Communicate how much donations matter (even the very small ones)
  4. Create online participation opportunities
  5. Give people a sense of what’s going on backstage – and in your back offices.

To elaborate:

  • Micro donations should be the easiest way a person can give money to an organization. It should take less than three clicks on a website or the simple task of responding to an SMS txt message or e-mail.
  • Donors want to know more about an organization once the feel they have invested in it. Send an initial personalized e-mail or SMS text message to donors within 24 hours elaborating on what they are supporting and how they helped.
  • Every donor even one who only gives $5 should feel like they have made a difference and created impact. By framing their support this way, the organization is setting itself up for future involvement and donations.
  • Creating an online community and an interactive online space provides an outlet for people to be involved with the organization outside of the physical space.
  • A behind the scenes look at an organization shows transparency and provides a sense of community. It puts faces, personalities and people with the names, this is important when building support,

Technology has provided a new and proven opportunity for cultivating contributed income in the current economy. If adopted, these campaigns will soon be key in cultivating new donors, creating new support and sheering up funding for new and innovative projects in the cultural community.