What are donors’ motivations to give? What are they hoping to achieve? And how do you, as the lead fundraiser, help them attain their goals? As I explain in my book The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System:
Individual Donor Motivations
“According to the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, individual donors give for many possible reasons: they believe in the mission of the organization; they believe their gift can make a difference; they experience personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment from making the donation; a habit of supporting the same causes annually; they want to give back to the community; and adherence to religious beliefs. According to Network for Good, the number one reason why donors stop giving is that they don’t know how their gift is being used. Donors want to positively impact issues they care about and know they made a difference in.
“The implication is that you don’t ask for money. You make mission-based asks, the mission being what change can happen in the community as a result of their donation, not the change in your organization or its programs.
“And you need to report to your donors how their donations were used. Which means that to tap into their motivations, you don’t report on program outcomes. Instead, you report on the changes the donation made in the human condition. It is not the money or the organization that is important to donors. Their goal is to increase mission fulfillment. So, help them reach that goal. Base your ask on the amount of mission your nonprofit can meet through their donations and report back to them that you did exactly that. It’s all about mission.
“I would also add that donors want to be acknowledged. It is a human need to be acknowledged and validated. Always treat donors with honor, dignity, and respect, one way to acknowledge their worth as human beings. Acknowledge and thank them for their gifts as well. Most nonprofits do not thank their donors in a timely fashion, if at all. That’s a huge mistake. You donors need to be honored for their contributions, no matter how small the monetary value. That’s how you get people to give again—acknowledge, honor, and appreciate them for what they have chosen to do on your agency’s behalf.
“Help donors meet their goals.Talk mission, not money. And then show them they accomplished what they set out to do.
“Foundations’ goals are to meet the legal objectives under which they were formed. If they do not meet their legal objectives, they are going to have legal problems. They give money away according to their stated missions.
“Foundations are nonprofits, too. They must abide by the charitable purposes for which they were established. Foundations do not give money away to fulfill your nonprofit’s mission. Foundations give away money to fulfill their missions. Your chances of funding are greater if you do your research first and match your organization’s mission to theirs. In other words, you help them meet their goals.
“And you need to follow their guidelines. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. They have guidelines for a reason. Their guidelines help them meet their objectives in some way, whether we understand them or not. Always follow the guidelines they give. Help them meet their goals.
“You also need to complete and submit your reports on time. Foundations need to report on how well they achieve their objectives. They need to know how much of their mission your agency was able to meet. Accurate and thorough reporting is essential. It helps the foundation justify the money it gave to your organization. It is through the reports that they know if they met their goals.
“Businesses know it is good for them to give back to their communities. Communities are where companies sell their products or services, hire their employees, and make their impact. Most businesses want to be good corporate citizens. Help them do that. Partner with them to fulfill your organization’s mission. Report back on their donation’s impact—to both them and the community.
“But remember, companies are in business to make money—not give it away. So, when you approach businesses, don’t only ask for money to meet your mission; ask to enter into a mutually beneficial partnership that helps you meet their mission and money goals.
“So, what are their money-making goals? How do businesses make money? By:
- Increasing visibility of their products or services among their target markets;
- Acquiring new customers;
- Increasing existing customers’ loyalty; and
- Reducing their operating costs.
If your nonprofit can help companies meet any of their goals, you may be well-positioned to get a big donation.
“The key to giving them visibility is not just promoting them; it’s promoting them to their specific target market, that is, to people who are most likely to buy their product or service. The trick is knowing who their target markets are and seeing if your nonprofit interacts or communicates with those specific audiences. One of your audiences, for example, your clients, staff, volunteers, or donor base—may be one of their target markets. How can you design opportunities where you can benefit from a donation and they can benefit by exposure to their target markets? It can be ethically done.
“You can also boost your business case for support by talking their language. For example, can you intelligently talk about your nonprofit’s market demand and penetration? Do you have numbers to back up your claims? Do you talk about your brand and unique market position? Do you talk about how your brand can increase their brand, thus increasing customer and employee loyalty, thereby reducing marketing, recruitment, and retention costs? If you can speak their language and address their concerns, you have a strong case for support. Because you’re addressing their money concerns as well as your mission ones. It’s called cause marketing, where companies engage in philanthropic relationships for the dual purposes of doing good and increasing profits. And it is a powerful fundraising tool. Use it to your advantage.”