Why people do and don't donate to your non-profit agency

why1There has been lots written throughout the years about the psychology of philanthropy. Most of the stuff I’ve read has been right on target with regards to why people open their wallets/purses and give money to a non-profit organization. I’ve been asked to revise a whitepaper titled “Why People Do and Don’t Give Money” for a national organization’s online fundraising toolbox to which their local affiliates have access. So, I thought I’d ask you and the rest of the DonorDreams blog community for a little help this morning. Would you please be so kind and give me one minute (or less) of your time at the end of this post?
The fundraising whitepaper starts off with this simple opening paragraph that frames the rest of the document:

Knowing what motivates donors to make a philanthropic gift helps you determine where your prospect falls in this spectrum. Once you understand where they are coming from, you can plan your solicitation strategy accordingly.”

The following are just a few of the 17 bullet points listed, explaining the motivations of some donors:

  • They have a need to be philanthropic, to do good
  • They like your organization’s mission and believe in your cause
  • They like making a difference
  • They like and have respect for the solicitor
  • They are asked to give!

Then there is a list of another 11 bullet points listing reasons people don’t make donations. Here are three of the reasons provided:

  • They are pressured in any way
  • They are promised any kind of favor in return or there are strings attached to their gift
  • They do not have the money at the moment

Here is where I’m asking you to please take a minute out of your busy day and help me with this small project. Please scroll down and answer the following two questions in the comment box below:

  1. Please share one reason you suspect people donate to your agency. (e.g. something that motivates the donor to contribute)
  2. Please share one reason you suspect donors won’t give to your agency. (e.g. a strategy you don’t use because you know it doesn’t work)

I will take your responses and weave it into a beautiful resource development tool for countless other fundraising professionals to use.
Why should you do this?
Simply stated, this is your opportunity to pay something forward today. Many of us have been the recipients of awesome coaching and mentoring from other professionals along our career paths. I believe those “debts of gratitude” should be repaid joyfully every time the opportunity presents itself.  🙂
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC


  1. 1.Please share one reason you suspect people donate to your agency. (e.g. something that motivates the donor to contribute)
    For the first time in my career, I am working for a hunger relief organization. In my short time here, and with the donors I have met, I believe that one of the reasons that people give to our organization is that it is very tangible what their gift does- their gift helps place food on someone’s table who may not have it. The impact of their gift is clear.
    2.Please share one reason you suspect donors won’t give to your agency. (e.g. a strategy you don’t use because you know it doesn’t work)
    I believe that a large reason that some people do not give to us is that they are not asked. I oversee the volunteer program and for years they have never made an ask for financial contributions from volunteers. I believe there is some fear of offending, or of discounting their gifts of time. It is indeed delicate as to how it is approached, but I believe leans towards something I have learned over the years, and especially during the recession, “Don’t make decisions for donors.”

  2. Donors give to my organization because they are asked to give by someone with whom they have a positive relationship. Beyond that, a solicitation has it’s greatest chance for success when it is made by a well coached solicitor who can articulate the organization’s mission and how the donor’s gift will be used. That solicitor doubles his/her chance for success after making their own gift. M job as fund raiser is to excite and coach my solicitors and to go out on donor visits when appropriate.

  3. Hello Erik . I thank you for taking time to send me your precious articles every week. I believe donor like to see transparency and where the money goes. they haven’t decided which agency is better qualified for donations. God bless you Denise Mathurin

    1. Denise . . . I appreciate you taking time to weigh-in with your thoughts. Transparency is obviously a crucial element in lubricating every agency’s resource development efforts and encouraging donors to support your mission.

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