NAIS Research: Jobs-to-Be-Done Study on Independent School Donors


The world of charitable giving to independent schools is becoming more complex, especially for advancement offices and heads of school. Boards’ expectations and goal amounts are growing, and it can seem as if the pool of enthusiastic donors is shrinking.

Tuition revenue covers just three-quarters of the cost to run the typical independent day school and just over half of the cost at an independent boarding school. Charitable giving makes up a portion of the difference between revenue and expenses.

How can you increase the success of your fundraising program, converting prospective donors into consistent, committed donors? And how can you make fundraising more effective for both the school and for donors?
It’s important to understand why donors give to your school. What circumstances push them to give? What outcomes are they hoping for when they donate to your school?

NAIS conducted research to study what motivates independent school donors. Using the Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) methodology, NAIS uncovered three Jobs-to-Be-Done segments of donors. The following report presents findings from the study and shares tips to help you better communicate with donors and design campaigns that resonate with their needs.

Executive Summary

JTBD research begins with a series of in-depth interviews with people who have recently made a decision, such as people who’ve just started or stopped using a product or service or people who have decided to give to a charitable organization. The interviews are analyzed to find common behavior patterns that are observable (what the person did) rather than aspirational (what the person says he or she would do). JTBD research illustrates the contexts people are in and shows the trade-offs they make when deciding, thus illustrating what is truly important to them.

NAIS conducted JTBD research with donors to independent schools to better understand their context, desired outcomes (including their functional, social, and emotional needs), and the trade-offs they were willing to make in their decision to make a gift. The study uncovered three donor segments—groups of donors who were in similar contexts and hoping to accomplish similar things.

The donors who participated in this study were from various parts of the country and demographic backgrounds, and they had different relationships with the schools to which they contributed. They all gave what they felt was a significant amount of money to an independent school.

Using the JTBD research to understand donors’ needs, your school can communicate with donors more effectively, converting prospective donors into committed donors.

Downloadable Content

Using Jobs-to-Be-Done in Advancement Messaging

At the core of Jobs-to-Be-Done marketing is the concept of demand-side messaging, the idea of speaking to the needs of your school’s donors when you are creating advancement messaging materials. Demand-side messaging involves focusing on the progress you can help donors make, as opposed to talking about the features and benefits you find compelling about your giving efforts (supply-side messaging).