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The Top 15 Reasons Why People Give

Take-away: Ask those close to you before reaching out to big name funders with no connection.

You wouldn’t ask Bill Gates to cover your hospital bill…would you? If you needed financial help, you’d ask a family member or a close friend first. Charity begins at home. The same principle applies to fundraising. It’s the people around you, those already engaged or invested in your nonprofit who will give. Finding support for your organization should start from the center out, from those who know you best, to those who know you least.

Yet too often, we dream of a sugar daddy, a miraculous cure-all for our organization’s financial woes. “One big check from Bill Gates or Warren Buffet could solve all of our problems,” we muse. Volunteer board members see a name in the Wall Street Journal or on TV and think these celebrities are the answer to all of their nonprofit’s challenges.

However, soliciting support from big name funders with no connection is more likely to burn your staff out than to fill your coffers. Instead, deepen your relationships with donors who already know you. If you apply to a national foundation, it’s not unusual for them to vet your nonprofit through local funders. If your hometown foundations aren’t supporting you, it raises red flags for national funders. Conversely, if local funders say your organization is the best thing since sliced bread, national funders will be more interested in reading your proposal.

Whether you’re asking individuals, foundations, or corporations, get to know those in your community who care the most. Build your home-base. Strong community engagement will increase your influence and visibility, helping larger institutions to see your worth and increasing the likelihood that they will support you.

Why Individuals Give

What about individuals? The #1 reason people give is because someone they know asks them, and they want to help that person. If you start by asking those you know, you may find the list is so long, you never get around to asking strangers! Here’s why people give, with the reasons ranked from most to least compelling:

  1. Someone I know asked me to give, and I wanted to help them.

  2. I felt emotionally moved by someone’s story.

  3. I want to feel I can help, rather than feeling powerless in the face of need (especially in the case of disasters).

  4. I want to feel I’m changing someone’s life.

  5. I feel a sense of closeness to a community or group.

  6. I need a tax deduction.

  7. I want to memorialize someone (i.e., who died of a disease or a beloved parent).

  8. I was raised to give to charity- it’s tradition in my family.

  9. I want to be “hip”. Supporting this charity is in style (i.e., colored wrist bands).

  10. It makes me feel connected to other people and builds my social network.

  11. I want to have a good image for myself/my company.

  12. I want to leave a legacy that perpetuates myself, my ideals, or my cause.

  13. I feel fortunate (or guilty) and want to give something back to others.

  14. I give for religious reasons- God wants me to share my affluence.

  15. I want to be seen as a leader/role model.

Ask for gifts that satisfy donors’ desires. Some folks are motivated by just one or two reasons, others by many. Notice that a tax deduction is only sixth on the list. Most people give from the goodness of their hearts.

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