2.12 Converting In-Kind Donors to Financial Supporters

Dear Kim:

We are a 50-year-old social service agency mostly supported by government grants.  We do have about 600 donors who help us every year and we do a reasonable job keeping in touch with them.  We also have about 300 people who give us in-kind gifts and I have tried all kinds of solicitations to encourage them to give money as well as stuff, but I have had a really poor response.  Someone said that you said in-kind donors often don’t become money donors.  Is that true?  Should I stop trying to convert them? 

~Hoping to go from Chair to Checkbook

Dear Chair:

It is true that I said in-kind donors generally don’t become money donors and probably a lot of other fundraisers have said that as well.  In some ways it seems logical that someone who gave you something of value that probably cost them money would be a good prospect to give you money, but it rarely works that way.  The fact is that when I give away my old couch or books I am never going to read again, I pick places that will take them.  I hope those places aren’t homophobic or exploitive of their workers, but I don’t call my favorite organization and ask if they need my old clothes, unless my favorite organization is a shelter or something like that.  And in that case, I would already be giving money. The question is whether you are having the same or better response from your in-kind donors as to your other acquisition activities.  I worked with a group that was always able to convert about 3% of their in-kind donors to money donors and they realized this was quite a bit better than the 1-2% response they were getting from direct mail.  The system that seems to work for many organization is to thank the donor for whatever they gave you, then a few months later ask them for a financial contribution, then ask them at the end of the calendar year again for any kind of donation. If they don’t respond to your requests, take them off your list.  You haven’t spent a lot of money and you will get some donors out of it. 

~Kim Klein