Why Individuals Donate Money

Fundraising from individuals is time consuming. It takes time to manage individual donations (issue receipts, thank and update records). Don’t fall into the easy trap of this all being automated. While posting appeals on social media is quick, easy and has a wide reach, the personal touch is vital. An upside of having a large pool of individual donors (aside from regular and reliable ongoing income) is that it is primarily from this group that NPOs receive bequests. In addition, individual donors are ‘ambassadors’ for the organisation and will generally support its events and other needs. Some may volunteer and they are likely to influence others to support the organisation too.

Why people leave bequests, why they volunteer, why they support certain organisations and not others, even the level and extent of their giving must be understood to plan the most appropriate methods of approach for each target market or source of support. It is important to understand some of the reasons why people donate money, irrespective of the cause.

For some, the knowledge that their donations will be partly tax-deductible is a proven motivator to give. The cause, however, remains the primary issue. Fortunately, many organisations in good standing with SARS, can obtain registration in terms of Section 18A of the Income Tax Act as part of their PBO registration, and thereby offer donors a tax rebate.

The most common reason why someone is not a donor to an organisation is that they were not asked! And, conversely, most people give as they were asked. Don’t forget to ask. Don’t be uncomfortable about asking. Asking someone to donate is also about giving them an opportunity to give – the opportunity to make a difference.

People give because they have something to give – it might only be R20. Most people who care about a certain cause would like to support work addressing the problems but not all have money available to give. Some may want to offer volunteer time. This too is valuable.

Many people believe that it is their duty to help others and most religions require that their followers engage in charitable support. Donations to NPOs offer a vehicle for such giving. And some have become accustomed to making donations. The habit of such giving is part of the natural order of their lives. Good news for fundraisers! Although the reasons that motivate various people to give and become accustomed to giving include those listed here, merely being in the habit of charitable giving, is a positive factor that makes them more open to being approached by other organisations. People who donate money usually give to more than one organisation. Someone concerned about animals, health or the elderly may well donate to five or six organisations in similar fields.

Individuals donate more readily when provided with options which tell them exactly what their donation will achieve. That is why crowdfunding is so popular, as people are asked to fund something specific.

Individual donors are inclined to respond to emergency situations. The more online and connected the world becomes, the more real time news people are exposed to. The urgency of a situation, coupled with the belief that their donation is needed (for the disaster) and that it will make a difference, motivates many to give – often people who don’t ordinarily support charitable causes. The challenge for fundraisers is to nurture such one-off donors to grow lasting relationships.

Largely, what fundraisers sell is hope – hope that problems (even if almost insurmountable) can be solved. People see and read media reports and follow social media posts on problems and crises. They give money to non-profit organisations that inspire trust, in the hope that their donations will address these issues.

Fear is also a motivator to giving. People fear so many things, from death, poverty and illness to suffering the results of climate change. For instance, funding for the fight against dementia – the disease feared by the Baby Boomer generation as it ages – is raising unprecedented money, as did the race to prevent death from HIV in the 1990s.

Research has shown that some people are driven to give money to an organisation addressing a need that angers them. Therefore, anger can be a motive to give. Anger at the unfairness of people or animals’ suffering, the results of the ravages of environmental degradation or the slow pace of government fixing the sub-optimal apartheid education (it IS 30 years since democracy came to South Africa), elicit a: ‘Yes! I’ll support this NPO because they are doing something about …’

In a world that has largely lost its way, some donors are inclined to support organisations devoted to their values – the things they hold dear. Such values differ from person to person, but individuals support organisations involved in work that they relate to and that they care about. People who donate motivated by their own values, may often support less popular causes if they care about them, which opens a targeted pool of potential donors, albeit a small group.

Some people need to belong – be it to a family, club or grouping that works for them. The sense of ‘belonging’ to a group of like-minded people can motivate people to donate. This sense of community can extend beyond the shared connection with people who care about a cause to a feeling of connectedness to people whom they admire (an excellent case for organisations to have high profile patrons).

These are just some of the reasons why people donate to good causes. There are many more. It’s useful to understand what motivates the potential donors to a cause as this can help to target them when fundraising.

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