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7 reasons why donors give + how to appeal to their motives

February 20, 2022
This image shows three diverse young nonprofit professionals discussing reasons why donors give.

Knowing what motivates your donors to give is vital to the growth and longevity of your nonprofit organization. Are your donors passionate about your purpose due to their personal experience?? Are they eager for ways to give back to their community? Is it part of a family tradition, or did they learn about you through their social networks?

When you understand why donors give, your organization will be able to make more effective appeals that resonate and effect change.

We surveyed 3,000 donors and found the top seven reasons why donors give to nonprofit organizations. They are: 

1. Donors are purpose-driven.

Donating to charity feels good and motivates people to want to make a positive difference in the world. In fact, scientific studies show that generosity stimulates dopamine, which creates brain activity in the regions associated with pleasure and reward. This means donors are hard-wired to support worthy causes like yours.

To harness the power of this inherent altruism, your organization should: 

  • Prove that you do meaningful work.
  • Show how your cause helps people within the community.
  • Provide multiple giving opportunities.

When purpose-driven individuals see that your nonprofit organization aligns with their values and offers feel-good giving opportunities, they will be more motivated to take action. 

2. Donors trust your organization. 

Donors come to your nonprofit organization because they believe in your purpose and feel satisfied after giving. If you want them to stay engaged, prove that your organization is worthy of their trust and commitment. 

The key to building long-lasting relationships with donors is transparency. When you say you’re going to do something, be true to your word. Fostering trust can be as simple as: 

  • Thanking donors promptly. We recommend following up on a gift within 24 hours to a week of receiving it. Donors will appreciate your responsiveness and acknowledgment.
  • Remaining upfront about your nonprofit organization’s financial situation. Prove you’re transparent by publishing financial information like your recent annual reports and IRS Form 990 on your website.
  • Showing the impact of donors’ gifts. Show where contributions go by breaking down your overhead costs and fundraising goals. 

Like any relationship, building mutual trust between your organization and its supporters takes time. But once that trust is earned, you’ll have a committed donor base at your disposal.

3. Donors understand their impact. 

Donors appreciate seeing the impact of their generosity. Communicating what you’ve accomplished gives donors the confidence they need to continue lending their support. Show donors how they’re making a difference with the following strategies: 

  • Send monthly or quarterly campaign updates.
  • Feature testimonials in your newsletter.
  • Post photo and video reports on social media.
  • Publish case studies on your website.

When donors know that their gift has a direct impact on fulfilling your purpose, they will feel more empowered and connected to your organization. 

4. Donors have a personal connection to your purpose. 

For many donors, charitable giving is highly personal. Perhaps one of your major donors experienced homelessness at some point in their life and contributes to your shelter out of empathy. Or maybe the monthly donors who give to your cancer research fund have loved ones with the disease. 

Donors who give because they have firsthand experience with your cause are incredible advocates. But if you aren’t asking donors why they give, you miss the opportunity to tell their impactful stories, which—with their permission—can be turned into opportunities to spread the word about your cause. 

Use your fundraising solution to send donor surveys. Then, use this information to create highly personalized messages that reference the details and personal stories your supporters have shared with you. 

5. Donors want to be part of something meaningful. 

Donors want to feel like their gifts are going towards something significant. Compel donors to give to your organization by:

  • Adding a human element to each fact and statistic. Donors connect more with personal stories, rather than statistics and broad statements. Tell specific, impactful stories in your newsletters and blog posts to tug at your donors’ heartstrings.
  • Providing first-hand experiences. Most donors aren’t persuaded to give based on facts alone. Spark a personal connection by inviting donors to volunteer, attend a fundraising event, or take a tour of your facility. 
  • Making your outreach efforts donor-centric. Placing donors at the heart of your solicitations makes them feel like a partner in your organization and empowers them to give. 

Tap into your audience’s emotions and invite them to take a closer look at your organization so they can connect with your work on a personal level. 

6. Donors are engaged.

To generate long-term support for your nonprofit organization, provide donors with a wide range of engagement opportunities, such as:

  • Donor appreciation events. 
  • Volunteer opportunities.
  • Social media campaigns.
  • Membership programs.
  • Recurring gift options.

When you involve donors in other aspects of your organization, you prove that your relationship extends far beyond a financial transaction.

7. Donors appreciate tax benefits. 

Some donors value the financial incentive of giving. When you donate to a 501(c)(3) public charity, you may be eligible for certain tax deductions. If your donors express interest in receiving tax benefits, appeal to them by:

  • Sharing annual giving letters that include your tax-exempt status and the overall contribution of donors
  • Offering a matching gifts program for donors to use at their respective companies
  • Sending donation receipts, a legal requirement for donations over $250.

Along with explaining tax benefits, continue to appeal to your donors’ natural empathy by making your case for change to keep them inspired by your work.

How should nonprofit organizations appeal to donors?

Understanding why donors give affects every interaction you have with them. While your nonprofit organization should show that it’s a good steward of donor money, your appeals must contain more than just numbers and pie charts. 

Let donor motivations guide your next fundraising appeal and keep these key takeaways in mind: 

  • Remain transparent.
  • Show the impact of each gift.
  • Personalize your communications.
  • Use emotional appeals.
  • Provide opportunities for further engagement.

These insights will help inspire future engagement, deepen relationships, and turn first-time donors into lifelong supporters and advocates. 

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