Donor Satisfaction Vital to Community Foundations, Study Finds

Community foundations can improve donor satisfaction, which is vital to their ability to retain and expand their donor base, by being more responsive and better communicating their work in the community, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.

According to the report, What Donors Value: How Community Foundations Can Increase Donor Satisfaction, Referrals, and Future Giving (36 pages, PDF), donors who say they are more satisfied with their community foundation are more likely to give to the foundation in the future and to recommend it to others. Based on survey data from more than six thousand donors to forty-seven community foundations that commissioned a donor perception report from CEP between 2009 and 2013, the analysis found that the percentage of donors who said they were satisfied with specific features of their community foundations — the organization's leadership in, and knowledge of, the community; its financial performance and administrative fees; and its reputation and referral network — ranged from 82 percent to 91 percent. When asked about their overall level of satisfaction, however, one in four donors indicated that they were moderately or less satisfied. Moreover, the lower a community foundation's average overall donor-satisfaction rating, the higher the proportion of donors who said they do not plan to give to the foundation again.

The report also found that the strongest predictors of donor satisfaction are donors' sense of the foundation's level of responsiveness when they need assistance and their perceptions of the foundation’s impact on the community, followed by their satisfaction with the foundation's leadership in the community and its financial practices. Although community foundations would be hard-pressed to change its financial practices to compete with other entities offering donor-advised funds, the report concludes, they should be able to capitalize on their strengths to deliver excellent customer service while positioning themselves to have an impact on their communities.