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How to get donations: Target the top 12 reasons people give

February 14, 2020
A group of workers sit around a table together, discussing how to get donations.

Giving isn’t a business transaction. It’s a human connection. Make meaningful connections with donors by showing them why they matter and how they can make a difference to inspire their support. When you understand why your donors give, you’ll be able to make your appeals more effective.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your donors personally to find out why they give, either through individual outreach or by sending out surveys. Their stories matter, and sharing them inspires others to follow their example.

Top 8 reasons for donating

The first step in understanding how to get donations is understanding your donors’ motivations. Bonterra surveyed 3,000 donors to find out what inspired them to give, and the top eight reasons are:

  1. I know there is a need for the nonprofit’s purpose in my community, and I know it does good work.
  2. I believe the nonprofit will use my gift to stabilize or expand programming.
  3. The nonprofit communicates about the impact of giving by sharing program outcomes.
  4. I know someone who benefitted from the nonprofit’s work.
  5. I want to be associated with the organization and its brand.
  6. I see the organization online and on social media.
  7. I want the tax deduction.
  8. I know someone on the board of directors or who volunteers.

We also asked some of the 10,000+ small nonprofit organizations we work with for some of the most common reasons their donors give. Here’s what we heard:

  1. Someone I know asked me to give, and I wanted to help them.
  2. I want to feel I’m not powerless in the face of need and can help (this is especially true during a disaster).
  3. I want to memorialize someone (who is struggling or died of a disease, for example).
  4. I was raised to give to charity—it’s a tradition in my family or part of my faith.

With this knowledge, you can appeal directly to your donors’ motivations in your fundraising appeals and marketing materials. 

Actionable tips for successful fundraising appeals 

Remember that people act from the heart, not the head

Your nonprofit has to show donors you’re using their money well by being transparent about its spending, but your appeal must contain more than numbers and pie charts. Include real stories of the impact donations make on your beneficiaries to appeal to donors’ emotions.

Frame giving as a personal act

Your appeals need to be donor-centric. Make sure to tell your donors why they should care about your purpose and why they are important to your organization. Learn more about crafting your call-to-action and writing personal emails.

Empower donors to support your cause long-term

With proactive donor stewardship, your donors won’t just be interested in your cause right now—they’ll want to contribute again in a month or a year. Give them the option to make a recurring donation to your organization to encourage long-term support.

There are many reasons why your donors give. When you’re crafting your next fundraising appeal, reference this list and ask yourself if you’ve tapped into these reasons.

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