A recent study reveals that donors support charitable causes for “very personal reasons.” In other words, giving is about them (the donors and what motivates them) and is far less about you and your nonprofit organization.
This is not surprising news to those of us who practice donor-centered fundraising. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have additional research data that supports the idea of being donor centered.
Donor Loyalty Study: A Deep Dive into Donor Behaviors and Attitudes is the study report from Abila, a leading provider of software and services to nonprofit organizations. The researchers explored questions with a representative sample of 1,136 donors in the United States across all age segments who made at least one donation to a nonprofit organization within the previous 12 months.
The study identifies the three “main reasons for donating”:
- I am passionate about the cause — 59 percent
- I know that the organization I care about depends on me — 45 percent
- I know someone affected by their cause — 33 percent
Other reasons for donating generated far lower responses, ranging from just three to 18 percent.
You’ll notice that each of the top three reasons for giving involve “I” not necessarily you or your charity. Let’s explore this a bit.
The number-one reason for giving involves the donor’s passion. You’ll also notice that the donor is passionate about and supports the “cause” though not necessarily the organization.
In other words, I may be passionate about fighting cancer. However, I might be fickle when it comes to supporting a particular cancer charity. For example, this year, I might support the American Cancer Society. However, if I’m not stewarded or asked effectively, I might shift my support to the City of Hope next year. I’ll still be a passionate supporter of the fight against cancer, but the organization I choose to support will change.
The challenge for nonprofit organizations is to embody the cause for which donors have passion. An organization needs to demonstrate to its donors that it is the worthy channel for their passion. Remember, donors have choices. You need them more than they need you.
If you do what I’ve just said, donors will understand that you need them, that you “depend” on them. And that’s the second most common reason why people give. If your organization embodies a donor’s passion and let’s that donor know how important she is, she will be far more likely to renew and upgrade her support.
The third reason for giving is really just a sub-category of the first. Again, it’s about the “cause” rather than the organization. Yes, in some cases, it might be about your specific organization. However, that won’t always be the case.
By understanding your donors, you can tailor stewardship and appeal messages to them. This will improve your effectiveness.