Why Donors Give

Why do donors give? Different types of donors, that is individuals, foundations, and businesses, are motivated to give for different reasons.


People are driven by values, feelings and beliefs. Know your donors’ values, needs and motivations and meet them where they are. Appeal to underlying values in your appeals. Acknowledge the beliefs behind your message.

So, what are the values, feelings, and beliefs around individual giving? Why do people donate? In order of importance: 

  1. They believe in and have a connection to the mission of the nonprofit.
  2. They believe that their gift will make a difference.
  3. They experience personal fulfillment through giving.
  4. Giving has become habitual.
  5. They want to give back to the community.
  6. They are fulfilling a religious obligation.

What all this means is that the best thing you can do to motivate your donors is talk about your agency’s mission and how donors can contribute to making a real difference.


Foundations give to fulfill their missions-not your agency’s. The question foundations ask is, “Where will our money best be used to achieve our legal objectives?” Yes, I said legal objectives. Foundations are legally bound to the missions for which they exist. If they do not adhere to their legally stated purpose, they are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status. The IRS also requires foundations to give out a certain amount of their corpus every year. That’s why the IRS requires foundations to make their tax returns, called 990s, available. So the public knows what they give money to and how they give it out. Researching 990s should be part of every foundation fundraising strategy. Do your research before approaching any foundation. It’s public information. Foundations expect you to know it.


Long gone are the days when businesses gave just because they were asked. Although there are charitable motivations, smart for-profits meld their philanthropic and strategic business objectives. Today, when you approach and develop relationships with for-profits, you are entering into exchange relationships where both parties give and get something of value. You get the donation and they get a new avenue to better meet their goals.

So, what are their goals? For-profits are looking to increase market visibility, expand their customer base, increase customer loyalty, and reduce costs. You can meet these goals through your nonprofit’s marketing and outreach, by improving your agency’s brand, and by offering employee volunteer opportunities. Be creative in the use of your communication vehicles to give them visibility. Match the target markets they have with your constituency groups. Point out how your marketing and volunteer opportunities reduce their costs.

Bringing It Together

The top two reasons individuals give is they believe in the mission of the nonprofit and that their gift will make a difference. Use this information to motivate your donors to give and give again. Foundations give to fulfill their missions-not yours. They ask for a proposal to evaluate your agency’s capacity to carry out their mission. To get the foundation funding, you must match missions. The most important tenet to remember when you approach businesses is that you are entering into an exchange relationship where both parties give and receive something of value. Smart for-profits meld their philanthropic and strategic business objectives. To appeal to businesses, help companies increase their visibility, acquire customers, keep customers, and reduce costs.

Next Steps 

Let’s talk about how your nonprofit is appealing to donors and what your next steps are.  You’re invited to schedule a complimentary, thirty-minute strategy session with me.  During our time together, we’ll clarify the issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action.

I look forward to speaking with you!


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