That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling: Why People Give

As the holiday season approaches, many nonprofits have begun considering how to jump-start their nonprofit's fundraising efforts in order to increase donations. Whether it’s through a photo of a stray dog with those adorable puppy-dog eyes, a touching personal story or an eye-catching marketing campaign, nonprofits are constantly looking for ways to increase their number of donors.

In order to increase fundraising efforts, it’s important for nonprofits to understand the science behind giving and why people give. Sandra Sims, author of the “Grassroots Fundraising Journal” identified five reasons why people donate to charitable causes:

  •  Personal experiences
  • Desire to make a difference
  • Desire to take a stand on an issue or do something about a problem
  • Desire for personal recognition or external benefits
  • Because giving is a good thing to do

People donate for a variety of reasons, and the best way for a nonprofit to benefit from increased donations is to find a balanced way to cater to people’s reasons for donating. While some may donate because they were encouraged by a friend and they want to give that friend a hand in their fundraising efforts, others seek either personal recognition or an external gift such as a gift card, plaque or certificate. Some may have strong feelings toward a certain cause and feel called to make a difference, while others donate because they have had personal experiences as the recipient of donations.

Some donors give because of what James Andreoni calls the “warm glow” feeling. This warm glow refers to the feeling that people get when they do something for the betterment of someone or something else. According to Andreoni, this feeling that generates from giving helps people feel connected as they work together for a common cause.

So, how do you cater to all these reasons for donating? How do you encourage donors with different motivations? Rebecca Higman and Katya Andresen from Network for Good recommend making your organization’s appeal about more than pie charts and numbers because donors act from their hearts, not their heads. They also recommend putting the donor front and center by using the pronoun “you” and “your.”

“The people you serve are important, but make sure to put the ‘you’ and ‘your’… front and center” (Andresen, Higman).

Additionally, it is important that you make it easy for any donor to give from any device, wherever they are and whenever they want to.

“Your relationship with them will be long-term, but their willingness to give is now—let them act on it” (Andresen, Higman).

You may also find yourself wanting to cater to those donors who give for personal recognition by sending them a personal card, putting their name in your monthly newsletter or getting a certificate made for them.

No matter what someone’s motivation is for donating, it’s important that you, as a nonprofit, know how best to speak to each one.