Why Do People Give To You?

stack_of_envelopesI ONCE WORKED FOR AN ORGANIZATION WHERE 1/3 of our annual operating budget was raised in the month of December. Direct mail was one of the fundraising strategies we employed.

It wasn’t unusual to receive 200 pieces of mail in a single day; totaling tens of thousands in donations.

We knew that 3 or 4 days before their donations arrived, 200 people sat down at their table, opened up our fundraising letter, considered the validity of our request, wrote a cheque, stuck it in the return envelope and dropped it in the mail box.

When we thought about our fundraising in this way, each individual’s gift had more than monetary value, it demonstrated each person’s belief in our mission and ability to deliver on our promise.

We were honoured by their trust, humbled by their generosity and more committed than ever to cherish our relationships with them.

In the same way, people are moved to give to you. Following are some of the reasons they may do so:

  • It makes them feel good about themselves.
  • Your cause resonates with them and they want to do their part to make a difference.
  • They feel like their donation has a significant impact. It’s more than just a drop of water in an ocean of need.
  • They connect with, and trust, someone in your organization.
  • You invite them to share their ideas and have solicited their advice. You care about what they think.
  • You’re transparent with how you spend their money and open to questions.
  • You spend their donation on what you said you would.  If you are unable to do so because you’ve raised what you needed in a specific program; you’re honest about it, present other options for giving, and graciously understand if they no longer wish to support you.
  • You honour their privacy. You keep their information confidential.
  • They know you are grateful for, and appreciate them .

When you are considering fundraising strategies, do you think about how your processes will make your donors feel? How can you modify the ways you interact with your donors so that they feel good about their relationship with, and giving to, you?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.



  1. Louise Gallagher

    I find it interesting in today’s declining snail mail world, how the appeal letter is taking less and less a presence in many organization’s fund-raising campaigns. I love the image you paint of someone sitting down at the table to write that cheque — and the reason’s why. Sometimes it can be as simple as, because you asked. With the rising cost of snail mail and online donations climbing, reaching your audience with an appeal that they can relate to and buy into becomes more and more challenging.

    • The Other Bottom Line

      Thanks Louise.

      It is true that one day the appeal letter will be gone, but 70% of donors still donate this way. It would be a mistake for organizations to stop sending fundraising letters at this time.

      It is interesting to note though, that online donations yield a higher average gift.


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