Why Do People Give?

It is important to know what motivates your donors. The key to keeping a strong donor base is knowing why your donors give and what makes them give to your organization. There is a psychology behind giving, and if you can understand what motivates your donors, it will help you connect with them.

People donate to a nonprofit for five primary reasons: 

  1. Giving makes them feel good
  2. They have a personal connection to the nonprofit’s mission
  3. They want to make a difference
  4. They enjoy receiving personal recognition or another benefit
  5. They were asked

1. Giving Feels Good 

There have been numerous studies in the scientific community that show a correlation in increased dopamine levels when an individual volunteers for or gives money to a charity. Doing good actually makes you feel good. That’s why people volunteer in soup kitchens, help the homeless and make donations to those in need. The old adage that it is far better to give than to receive holds true. A nonprofit could ask its current set of volunteers to speak to how wonderful they feel after they have spent time volunteering and highlight the message that giving feels good.

2. Personal Connection 

A donor often has a personal connection to an organization or a cause. For example, an individual might donate to a cancer-related organization because of a family member’s cancer battle. This type of personal connection can dissipate over time; if the family member has won their battle with cancer, that same individual may not participate in the organization’s fundraiser in future years. It is important to connect to your donors so that they continue to feel personally invested in your mission even if the issue is no longer at the forefront of their minds.

3. Make a Difference

Most people give because they want to make an impact on their community or directly in someone’s life. To show the important work of your organization, share widely how donations further your mission. Conveying this information will help cultivate new donors and continue to motivate existing donors.

4. Personal Recognition or Tangible Benefit 

Some individuals appreciate the personal recognition they receive when they make a donation. That’s why an organization might sell a personalized brick in a new building or put a nameplate on a wall for a large donation. Donors also like receiving something of value in exchange for donating, which is a reason that auctions do so well. A trip or a once-in-a-lifetime experience is a great incentive to make a donation. If your fundraiser does not include an auction, consider offering a small gift when donors give at a certain level. For example, one of our clients gives a glass-blown heart as a token of appreciation to donors who give $250 or more.

5. Because Someone Asked

The number one reason that an individual makes a donation is because they were asked. This is by far the most important takeaway for an organization. It is crucial to keep asking your donors, not just once but multiple times throughout the year. Make those asks personal by calling your donors or speaking with them at a non-fundraising event.

Understanding the motivation behind why your donors give to your organization will help you not only attract but also keep your donors. Your campaigns and fundraisers will be more successful because you will be catering to their desires and motivations.

Schedule a consultation if you are interested in learning more about how to successfully build and maintain your donor base.