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Why do people donate?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

As we take the short walk from summer into year end giving I want take a moment to discuss the burning message ...

WHY DO PEOPLE (humans, individuals) Donate?

Let me start with a story…

My Grandmother, Sophie Dones

My Grandmother, Sophie Dones, was an amazing woman.

She had a simply awful childhood. When she was just 10-ish, her mother whisked her and her two sisters away to America to escape pogroms and an abusive father.

Shortly after their arrival at Ellis Island, her mother died.

She was an orphan. In a somewhat “ANNIE” type story, she was adopted by some family friends and grew up to marry my Grandfather and raise two kids (Mom and Uncle Mark).

I tell you this story to illustrate a reason for giving.

After Sophie passed away (just three weeks after my Grandpa Sam), my Mom and I were going through some of her mail. There, we found acknowledgments from many charities. They all were thanking her for a $5 donation.

Apparently, my grandmother gave $5 to everyone who asked - it was her way of giving back to the world for her good fortune….I’m told she was amazing!

This story has been the basis for so many conversations in my career in fundraising.

Do you donate a lot to a few–or a little to many?

This very personal decision is up to the donor. It is your job to discover there why and how they want to support your cause.

Why Individuals give to a nonprofit?:

  • Some give because they want to help others in need.

  • Some give because it’s their family (or religious) traditions.

  • Some want to make their community a better place.

  • Some people give because they have a personal relationship/experience/passion for your mission.

  • Some very personal reasons you will not understand until they tell you.

  • Some give for social currency (go to all the fanciest fundraising events)

  • And, some people may give episodically when there is a world event or natural disaster

But here’s the most interesting part: In a study referenced in Psychology Today, 85% of respondents said the reason they gave was simply because someone asked them.

Like my grandmother…they asked, and she gave!

But…before you make an ask put on that Sherlock Holmes hat and ask some really good questions to discover their reason (their WHY) and discover how they would like to support your mission.

Some samples-

  • What brings you to support our mission?

  • What part of our mission do you find most impactful?

  • What part of our mission touched your heart?

  • Can you share an experience with our mission

  • What would you like to see your gift accomplish?

And remember, based on-

  • The information you can find out during your first call

  • Doing some online research,

  • Checking with colleagues or on your CRM

You can be prepared in advance with the questions to ask!

Remember, if you give donors (or potential donors) the chance to tell you why they want to give and what they would like to see happen from their donation accomplish—then YOU bring the proposal that does what they hope for—your chances of a donation are really high.

Team Kat & Mouse nonprofit consultants are here to help!!! Drop us a line today.

NOTE: This was the last photo of my Grandparents. After the opening of the Ellis Island Museum, we took them to rediscover their roots and share their first hand account of the day they came to America. It was one of those extraordinary days of my life-I will never forget.

Read More About: Resilience in Fundraising

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