Fundraising Week 2012: What Motivates People to Give to Charity?

Photograph of a hat full of dollar bills.

It's Fundraising Week here at NCFY! We're re-posting some of our favorite articles from the Right on the Money series, which focuses on how youth-serving organizations can sustain their programs financially. In this article first published in September 2010, we talked to fundraising consultant Hope Neighbor.

What motivates people to give to charity? That’s the million dollar question for nonprofit organizations. To answer it, the Money for Good study, conducted by Hope Consulting of San Francisco, surveyed 4,000 people who make $80,000 or more a year. Givers broke down into the following categories:

Repayers like to give back to organizations or causes that have benefited them or people close to them.

Casual givers want giving to be easy, and they prefer to support established and respected organizations.

High impact givers support causes that don’t get attention by giving to organizations that do a good job addressing those issues.

Faith-based givers count religion as their single most important motivator.

See-the-difference givers donate to small local organizations that serve the community because they feel their gift will make more of a difference.

Personal ties givers have a close connection to the organization or person who asks them for a gift.

Hope Neighbor, founder and CEO of Hope Consulting, recommends that nonprofits focus on two to three of the six groups, rather than trying to be all things to all people. “Identify the segments that are most likely to give to you, and shape your marketing and the donor experience around the motivations and needs of the segments you choose,” she says.

With that in mind, we gave Neighbor examples of four hypothetical youth-serving nonprofits and asked what advice she would give to each. Her suggestions are laid out in the table that follows:


Organization Donor Groups to Target Key Messages
Small youth-serving nonprofit See the difference

Gifts are used in your community

Gifts make a big difference for the people we serve—and here’s how

A donation of $X buys Y
Large social service organization that serves two counties

High impact




Casual givers

Background: Here’s the issue and why it’s important

Greater depth: Here’s the impact we’re having and the ways we’re changing things

We’re among the best at working on this important issue

We’ve been doing this for a long time, and we have a great track record

We’re respected in the community

It’s easy to give to us by [giving at work, online, at one of our events]
Education and job-training program or college-preparation program Repayers

Stay in touch with us

We keep you in touch with your fellow alumni

You can give back by making a donation or volunteering
Youth-serving organization with strong religious orientation Faith-based Faith is integral to our work

Read “Money for Good: The U.S. Market Opportunity for Impact Investments and Charitable Gifts From Individual Donors and Investors.

9-5 pm Eastern