How much money are people willing to give?
November 10, 2011 1:14 PM   Subscribe

What is the minimum amount of money people are willing to give as a donation?

So I work for a non-profit buddhist retreat center. We use an online booking system for people coming on group and private retreats. We would like to add a donation option at the end of the online booking process. However, we would like to know, what is a good minimum amount that will not be intimidating to the retreatant? Our rates are generally 70 - 130 USD per night for a private cabin.
posted by snowliontiger to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by michaelh at 1:15 PM on November 10, 2011

A 15% tip on 70 dollars is a little over ten bucks, so $10 isn't too bad for a start. Is there a reason you want a set amount rather than letting people choose how much?
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on November 10, 2011

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:18 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Depends how long the retreat is and what is included. If it's a weekend retreat with lodging and meals included, I'd feel weird donating less than $100. If it's a day retreat with just lunch, I'd say a bare minimum of $15-20.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2011

Oh, I see I'm confused. You're asking about a donation on top of your nightly rates? Yeah, I guess $5-10 would be appropriate.
posted by desjardins at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2011

Wait, it's a donation on top of the booking, right?
posted by griphus at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2011

How are the donations going to be used? This would affect how much I would be willing to donate.
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:20 PM on November 10, 2011

posted by jeffamaphone at 1:21 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I just donated $0.14 to something or other at Whole Foods when the cashier asked if I wanted to round it up to the nearest dollar. (As an aside, it took her a couple tries to figure out what to add to something ending in .86 to make it an even dollar amount.)
posted by partylarry at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2011

Yeah, you could probably get away with a higher suggested donation if you explained the reason for it.

I'd put a blank box to fill out an amount with the "Suggested donation $10 plus explanation" afterwards. This allows for people to donate more than the suggested amount and for those who would give some, but not all of what's suggested (better than those who opt out completely)
posted by inturnaround at 1:29 PM on November 10, 2011

I think you should also figure out what the minimum for you is, in terms of usefulness to your retreat.

For instance, when my college asks for alumni donations, they accept any amount at all (when we were Seniors a lot of my friends gave them a dollar), because that was still useful for them, since then they could then say, "60% of alumni donated to the college in 2010-11," and use that for other types of fundraising, etc. But I have a friend who works in the Alumni Affairs office, and she says that really anything under $10 doesn't end up being helpful, because processing fees, etc, eat up so much of it.
posted by colfax at 1:29 PM on November 10, 2011

Don't have a minimum. Have several suggested amounts (say $20, $50, $100), that when clicked will fill in a free-form field for the user.
posted by grouse at 1:32 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consider using the 'even a penny would help' technique
posted by bq at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2011

Rule of thumb is to have 3 to 5 options on suggested donations, and peg the middle slightly above what you want, e.g. if you want mostly $10 donations, list $5, $10 and $20. People like to pick the middle. Always include a write-in donation area, and an option that says pleasantly "I can't donate right now, but would like to keep in touch about XY's work with Z" so you don't lose potential donors and donations.

The amount depends on the occasion and the donor target group. Are they current donors? Or general prospects? If you can tie the donation to a specific action, $X dollars will do this, that's easier for people to visualize.

For what you're suggesting, it would probably help if you earmarked the money officially as going to a specific cause, because people are going to feel like they've paid already for the retreat, so this needs to not be a 'tip' but a specific donation.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Maybe express it as a percentage -- 10% of the total cost of whatever they've booked sounds fair.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:40 PM on November 10, 2011

Do you have any demographic data at all on your guests? This is the kind of decision that shouldn't be made just by dart throwing or deciding what sounds good to you, but should be based on your awareness of the capacity of your donors. As a nonprofit Buddhist center I am sure you have a fair amount of lower income people - however, if they can pay the minimum of $70 a night for something like a retreat, they are not dead broke and can probably also afford a $10-20 donation. Meanwhile, I would also be surprised if you did not have some very high capacity donors.

If you've never collected this data, speculate based on visuals. What kinds of cars are in the parking lot? How old? Do people pay with credit cards, cash, check, or barter? What kinds of shoes, handbags, and luggage are people carrying? What are their clothes like - high-end catalog clothing, unique/artist/designer, secondhand? Finally, you've given us the price per night. If someone stayed a long weekend and availed themselves of all the services you might offer - add-ons, if any, meals, etc - what would the highest representative bill be? And what is the average per-person cost?

These things aren't always going to give you perfect information, but they can give you the parameters for a set of concentric bullseye rings to aim for, and help figure out your low and high amounts suggested. I also agree you should include an "other" category so people with a lot more capacity can fill that in. Do include a line or two about what happens to these donations and how they help you fulfill the mission, and a way to find out more. Don't be shy about asking for money. Even if $100 box seems like too much to you or for you and the staff, it may be pretty much spare change for some of your guests.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2011

The general rule we've followed in the NPOs I've worked for is that, while any donation is good, we usually put the minimum donation at just about the level it costs us to process the donation, usually around $10. I get the sentiment that it's good to allow people to even donate $.05, but then it's honestly costing more in staff time (especially if you're entering gifts into a database, sending out a thank you, etc - and more if it's a credit card donation and there's a processing fee involved) to process the donation that you're getting from it. YMMV.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:03 PM on November 10, 2011

But in this case, the potential donors are already spending at least $70 in the transaction, right? That should account for most of the overhead, and it seems like a few pennies actually would be helpful.
posted by grouse at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

But in this case, the potential donors are already spending at least $70 in the transaction, right? That should account for most of the overhead, and it seems like a few pennies actually would be helpful.

There's already lot of overhead involved in any sort of event, both in staff and in vendor services. That $70 probably doesn't even recoup those costs, let alone generate revenue. And then processing and accounting for contributions involves a another set of overhead expenses.
posted by desuetude at 9:24 PM on November 10, 2011

How much does it cost your center to process a donation? I often encounter solicitations for donations (in Ontario, Canada) that provide receipts for donations meeting or exceeding a minimum amount that takes this overhead into account.
posted by thatdawnperson at 4:59 AM on November 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. All your answers were really helpful. We have decided to have six different donation options: $10, $20, $40, $50, $60, $80, $100. Rezovation, the software that we use is not very high-end and cannot handle complicated payment options. Right now, we have to put the donations as an extra add-on item (like a welcome fruit basket/champagne) on the bookings page. Hopefully, we will figure out a better way to do this.

Thanks again.
posted by snowliontiger at 11:53 AM on November 16, 2011

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