Understanding your donor - Part 1: Why do they give?

A donor is the lifeblood of a successful non-profit. Without their money, time and moral support no impact can be made. As a result, understanding your donor is crucial for sustaining your organization. In this blog series, I will cover three areas that you must understand and implement in order to create a lasting relationship with donors.

Part one will cover the donor's motives behind their gift, part two will focus on understanding who your donor is and part three will guide you in connecting and communicating with your donor. Keep track of upcoming posts in this series on our blog.

Part I. What motivates your donors to give?

There are millions of organizations for donors to give to, but why do they choose you? As a nonprofit that is competing for funds, it is essential for you to understand the donor's Why. After being around non-profits for most of my life, I have come to understand three reasons why people give.

Emotional Donor:

Donors are compelled to give because of a personal experience, a relationship or a belief that your cause can help them make an impact.

Solution-Driven Donor:

Donors give based on the logic that your organization is solving a problem and their donation will help solve it.

Transactional Donor:

Donors are motivated by what they get in return for their gift. The return could be as simple as food at an event or the social status they receive from giving.

The emotional giver is someone who has typically bought into your mission because of its importance to them. When talking to this type of donor it's important to appeal to what matters to them in their life. Ask them questions about their personal experiences and tell them stories of how your organization has made an impact in those areas.

Solution-driven donors give because it makes sense, which means that whichever nonprofit presents the best solution to a problem is where they give. When talking to this type of donor, stay solution-focused or you might lose them. Tell them about the specific problems your organization addresses and what you do to solve those issues. Use facts and numbers in your explanations.

Transactional givers are tough to retain because if what you offer in return for their gift is not enough, they won't give. A banquet with good food and a silent auction works well to attract this donor. The key to keeping this donor long-term is to make your message at the dinner appeal to them personally in order to convert them into an emotional giver.

Understanding your donor can’t stop here though; too often we generalize about our donors and guess what causes them to give. When is the last time you sat down with a group of donors and asked them why they support your organization? Further, you must understand who your donor is as a person. What is it that matters to them and why do they believe in your mission? The power of belief goes much further than any single donation. That belief starts with understanding your donor's Why and connecting them to yours. Utilize one-on-one discussions, surveys, social media, video chat and other tools to gain a better understanding of your donor’s motives.