Working with anonymous donors

Some people wish to give large sums anonymously.
Date Published
07/02/2015

You want people to be proud of contributing to your nonprofit. During fundraising campaigns, an organization traditionally loves to share the names of its donors and thank them publicly. People whose names are tied to your mission will usually encourage their circle of friends and colleagues to contribute further. 

Sometimes, however, donors want to give anonymously. Many nonprofits have received large gifts from people and organizations with identities that need to remain hidden. If your organization would like to attract funds from these types of donors, you should be aware of why people remain anonymous and how you can help them make quiet contributions.

Recognize factors leading to anonymous donations
People give money to organizations they care about, so why wouldn’t they want their name connected to a good cause?

There are a variety of reasons people don’t donate money publicly. They may not want to take any attention away from the mission. Some people give for religious reasons and want to avoid being boastful. Many wealthy individuals don’t want to be seen as a target for crime or they don’t want people prying into the lives of their families.

The Nonprofit Marketing Blog suggested the primary reason modern donors want anonymity is so they are not bombarded online for more requests for donations and contacts from other organizations. People have given money to a charity only to find themselves receiving messaging they did not sign up for and had their Internet addresses sold to other marketing groups.

Eliminate problems that discourage public giving
First of all, you want to assure donors they are giving money on their own terms. When an individual or organization approaches your nonprofit to make a contribution, be very clear about how their money and information will be used.

It would be great if a donor became part of your network. Ask them if they would like to receive updates about your mission and news from your organization. Have a messaging system in place that you are able to explain to them. Nonprofit software programs can create consistent contact strategies that should be shared with your donors. Be completely transparent at the beginning and they will not be surprised down the line. 

You might also want to persuade them to use their name by showing them how individuals promoting your nonprofit have benefited the organization in the past. The same software can be used to track past fundraising efforts. If a personal endorsement led to increased giving, the influence can be charted by data providing visibility for future donors.

Assure them anonymity is an option
If donors still opt to keep their name out of their contribution, for religious, financial or personal reasons, your organizations should be ready to work with them. 

This means members of your organization may have to keep a secret. Some anonymous donors take steps to conceal their name so your nonprofit doesn’t have to worry about hiding anything. Other donors, however, will work with you personally and ask you to keep their involvement out of any press or public information.

Successfully accepting anonymous donations and helping the individual or organization stay private could lead to further giving. The Chronicle of Philanthropy featured the example of a university that safeguarded the identity of an individual who gifted the educational institute $60 million. The donor was so pleased with the process that he or she is now planning to make another contribution. Meeting the special needs of people working with your organization will demonstrate how caring and ethical your nonprofit is.

You should ask if anonymous donors are willing to disclose the dollar amount of their donation without releasing their name. Phys.org shared the results of a University of Bristol study that found a single large donation will lead to other people giving more during fundraisers. Even when participants didn’t know the identity of the big donor, the dollar amount was impressive enough to encourage more generous giving.

Provide multiple mediums
Forbes detailed the multiple ways anonymous donors might try to contribute to nonprofits without revealing their identity.

Contributors may use a go-between, donate online, set up a private foundation or even drop off a blank envelope full of cash. However your patrons would like to make a gift, you need to be ready to accept it. You have to work with a variety of individuals who may represent an anonymous donor and you should provide multiple avenues for accepting fundraising contributions. Your donation tools must be clearly labeled with anonymity options. 

Fundraising software will give you the strategies you need to accept funds quietly. You can integrate your office software with electronic tools that facilitate online donations. Gifts can be flagged as private or public. When individuals approach on the behalf of organizations, you have data showing your success with concealing names in the past. You can work with any type of contribution and meet the needs of the gift giver.

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