Want More Donations? Figure Out Donor Motivations

A new study could help nonprofits expand their donor base by better understanding why people donate in the first place.

Nonprofit organizations, including associations, often struggle to incentivize potential donors to open their wallets to support the mission.

However, a new study by the consulting firm Camber Collective makes the case that the key to bringing in the big bucks is to understand the people donating them.

Since the 1970s, the amount of money donated by Americans has stayed around 2 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Camber study. Interestingly, while raising donations above that threshold has proven difficult, 95.4 percent of American households gave to charity in 2014, and 76 percent of those donors believe their contributions make a difference, according to the survey of 3,000 people.

The study revealed two potential causes of stagnant donating: Nearly half of respondents said they don’t know how organizations use their donations, and almost 10 percent feel overwhelmed by the options for giving.

The study suggests that there is a $47 billion opportunity for organizations—$22 billion in new donations and $25 billion in shifted donations. It outlines four steps to changing donation habits: reframing, targeting, leveraging, and sharing.

“More than incremental changes from year to year, what we really need to solve for is how to increase and improve giving at scale,” Hope Neighbor, a partner in Camber Collective, said in a news release. “Nonprofits need new resources to fulfill current commitments and to take on additional challenges as the needs of society increase and shift.”

The suggestions that the study offers for better connecting with donors:

Reframing the conversation. Before constructing a towering skyscraper, it is crucial to build a base strong enough to support the building. That same principle applies to donations. The study suggests sparking new connections through appeals that are “joyful, dynamic, connected, and simple.” Your website could be a good channel for this by integrating large, simple pictures and upbeat music into your donation page.

Targeting different donor types. It is important for an organization to understand the behaviors and barriers of the targeted segment. The study highlights different kinds of donor segments with great potential that often get missed, such as “busy idealists.” They believe giving is an important part of their lives but have little time to research nonprofit organizations. Such donors value well-known nonprofits because they are convenient. By understanding and working with their needs, organizations can better attract this audience.

Leveraging new channels. The study highlights the potential of different kinds of donation options, including the use of crowdfunding and the embrace of employer matching donations—the latter being an opportunity that 76 percent of donors don’t take advantage of. The study suggests that, through program improvements, the level of corporate donations could increase by between $3 billion and $5 billion by 2020.

Sharing better information. It can be difficult to make any decision when you have that nagging feeling that you don’t know enough to choose. The study suggests that nonprofits can clear up misconceptions that may be holding donors back by sharing research and information about their organizations and how donations are used.

The free report is available on the Camber Collective website.


Eli Zimmerman

By Eli Zimmerman

Eli is studying Journalism at the University of Maryland. When not studying, he likes to relax with a nice book or a couple rounds at the local boxing gym. MORE

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