Motivations for donors vary as widely as there are donors, but most fall into these 18 primary reasons for giving. As you begin to develop your appeals, you’ll want to understand why donors give so you can craft an appeal that speaks to the primary motivations of your donor audience. You’ll relate to many of these motivations, while others may surprise you, yet the underlying motivations for giving will help you craft the highest converting appeals.

1. Because the Organization Asked

This may seem obvious on its face, but to be honest, this reason for giving surprised me. Of course people give because we ask! One way you may not be maximizing your donations as an organization is because you aren’t asking enough. For example, if you’re only doing quarterly appeals, you’re likely not asking your donors enough. Today, with as many messages as people are seeing on a daily basis, asking once a month may not be enough. Believe it or not but most people aren’t actively thinking about your organization. They may be thinking about the cause or issue to serve, but they aren’t thinking specifically of you. You need to ask, ask again, and ask some more. A lot of people are motivated to donate because an organization asked for the donation.

How Do I Message These Donors: This seems simple, but it’s important: ask your recipients for donations. This applies to the frequency of your appeals and also to within the appeals themselves. I cringe when I receive an email appeal with no way to respond. Have clear links and buttons that lead to a landing page you can convert from.

2. My Peers Gave

Donating can be contagious. Through peer to peer fundraising or a charity event, people often give because their peers donate. For some donors, it’s a matter of pride as to who gave the most. You’ll find this attribute alive and well at charity auctions or special events where high capacity donors are given an opportunity to respond.

How Do I Message These Donors: Use social proof by telling stories of other donors who give to your organization. Promote peer-to-peer campaigns.

3. An Affinity for Your Cause

While there are many factors that can motivate someone to give, one of the most important is affinity for the cause. Donors who feel a connection to a particular cause are more likely to give, and they are also more likely to continue giving in the future. These donors can be less loyal to a specific organization and more loyal to a cause. For example, if the donor gives to clean water, she may give to whichever clean water organization is appealing to her when she’s ready to give.

How Do I Message These Donors: Nonprofit organizations can cultivate affinity in a number of ways, including through personal contact, effective storytelling, and targeted marketing. By making a strong case for why their work is important, nonprofit organizations can inspire donors to give not only money but also their time and energy. When donors feel affinity for a cause, they become powerful ambassadors for the organization, helping to broaden its reach and impact.

4. Support Similar Organizations

People give because they support organizations doing similar work. Some donors don’t have a preference for organization and instead give based on the cause. If they support a particular cause, this type of donor is likely to support your organization with the right ask.

How Do I Message These Donors: Highlight your organization’s value proposition for how you are different than similar organizations but do work that is high quality.

5. Habit of Donating

When people are considering whether or not to donate to a nonprofit, they often ask themselves what their motivation is for giving. And while there can be many reasons for why someone might choose to give, one of the most powerful motivators is simply the habit of giving. When people make giving a regular part of their lives, it becomes less about making a one-time donation and more about supporting the causes that they care about. Furthermore, donors who give on a regular basis are often more engaged with the nonprofit and its mission, and they are more likely to continue giving even when times are tough. So if you’re looking for a way to motivate yourself to give, remember that the habit of giving can be just as powerful as any other reason.

How Do I Message These Donors: Highlight your monthly giving program and how it benefits donors.

6. Religious Reasons

One of the most common motivations for giving is religious belief. For people of faith, giving back is often seen as a way to live out their values and make a positive impact on the world. In addition, religious leaders often encourage their congregation to give to charitable causes, which can further motivate people to donate. Whether it is giving money to a local church or providing relief to victims of a natural disaster, people who donate for religious reasons often feel that they are making a difference in the world.

How Do I Message These Donors: Highlight the religious aspects of your charity and how the giving supports faith-based initiatives.

7. Tax Deduction

Some donors give due to the tax benefit they receive for giving. In the US, and many other countries, there is an opportunity for a reduction of the amount of taxes a person owes if she gives to a nonprofit. This deduction is often a key message for end of the year giving when people may have extra cash at the end of the year and want to give it away to get a reduction in taxes. I would not focus exclusively on this message in your appeal, but it does work well for those types of donors.

How Do I Message These Donors: Emphasize the potential tax deduction for the donation in your messaging.

8. Your Organization is Known for Doing Good Work

Donors are motivated to give to organizations that do good work. This can be a subjective measure, a donor may believe that an organization does good work and gives for this reason. Organizations that have good reputations usually have a base of donors who are motivated to give because they see the good work the organization does. There are some situations where an organization does really good work but has a hard time communicating their good work. Which of these organizations is more likely to get the donation from someone who is motivated by giving to organization known for doing good work?

In this chart, you’ll see organization A has higher quality work compared to organization B. The difference is that organization B has communicated their value proposition effectively and their donors believe they do higher quality work. Your organization must do the good work and you must also communicate how well you do the work.

How Do I Message These Donors: Use beneficiary stories to show the quality of the work you do. Use your social media, email, and other channels to communicate the work you do. In your appeals, highlight stories that demonstrate the need, how your organization solved the problem for the beneficiary, and what you’ll use the donation for.

9. The Need is Urgent

If you receive two appeals, each from a different organization, but one that explained the urgency of the need, which are you more likely to give to? Most people give to the organization with the urgent need as they think, “Oh, this need is urgent while the other can wait. I can give to the other organization at a later date.” When people understand the urgency of the need, some donors are moved to give immediately. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, people give because they understand the urgency of the need.

How Do I Message These Donors: It’s a good idea to add urgency to your appeals. When you write the appeal, focus on language like “NOW” and “TODAY” to express the urgency. Explain why your organizations needs the funds immediately.

10. You Provide Something Tangible

Some donors respond to an offer for a premium in exchange for the donation. It could be a DVD, a book, a shirt, tickets to an event or something else tangible, whatever the premium, the donor is enticed by it to give a gift. Usually the nonprofit has constraints around the gift, e.g. for your gift of $150 or more you will receive two tickets to a private symphony.

How Do I Message These Donors: Describe the premiums a donor may receive for donating.

11. The Donor Receives Recognition

Public recognition appeals to certain types of donors. In a study at Yale University, probability of giving increased from 11% to 13.7% when the donor was told his name was going to be printed in a newsletter while average gift increased 14%. Many donors enjoy recognition with their name on a wall, in a newsletter, or thanked at a reception.

How Do I Message These Donors: Recognize these donors in an annual report or at a donor event.

12. An Influencer or Celebrity is Involved

When someone is good in one area, we project on them trust in other areas. This is called the “halo effect” and is a profound part of human nature. We want to believe that people who are good in something we favor, such as acting, music, or sports, is trustworthy to believe elsewhere. If your nonprofit has an influencer or celebrity involved, he or she can motivate people to become involved with your nonprofit organization.

How Do I Message These Donors: Find influencers or celebrities that have an affinity for your cause. You may need to enter into a paid relationship for an endorsement.

13. The Cause Aligns with Personal Beliefs

When individuals are considering donating to a nonprofit organization, one of the main things that motivates them is whether or not the cause aligns with their personal beliefs. If they believe in the nonprofit’s mission and what it is trying to achieve, they are much more likely to donate both their time and resources. For many people, this is the most important factor when deciding whether or not to get involved with a particular nonprofit. If they don’t believe in the cause, they are unlikely to give even if they are familiar with the organization and its work. Therefore, it is essential for nonprofits to clearly communicate their mission and goals to potential donors in order to increase the likelihood of receiving support.

How Do I Message These Donors: Focus your message on the personal beliefs that align with your cause.

14. Access to Valuable or Insider Information

If your organization offers valuable or insider information, this will appeal to some donors. Donors like to have a feeling of “insider access” both to information and to people. If your organization has valuable intellectual capital or people who donors want access to, you may be able to use this to raise money for your cause.

How Do I Message These Donors: Create a giving society or exclusive communications for donors.

15. Fear

Democrats. Republicans. Liberals. Conservative. Gun control. Cancer. Heart disease. First Amendment rights.

People fear many things and will give to organizations to help alleviate their fears. If they believe an organization is fighting on their side, they donate to help stop whatever the problem is. You can’t go too extreme with your messaging, but these donors respond well when you hit their hot button.

How Do I Message These Donors: Emphasize how the donor is overcoming the challenge of the other side of whatever cause you’re fundraising for.

16. Giving is a Duty

Many people believe that giving is a duty and helping the less fortunate or suffering is part of being human. A donor who gives out of duty shouldn’t be considered a given, meaning you can’t just assume the donor will give. You still need to speak to why their donation will make a difference and how giving to your organization is the best investment of their donor dollars.

How Do I Message These Donors: These donors are motivated by a necessity to give. Highlight how the donor was created to give and how giving is a part of their nature.

17. They Believe in Your Mission

One of the most important motivations for giving is that the donors believe in the organization’s mission. When someone believes in your mission, they are more likely to be motivated to give. They may feel passionately about your cause and want to support your work. Or, they may know someone who has been helped by your organization and want to give back. Whatever the reason, someone who believes in your mission is more likely to be a generous donor. So, if you want to increase donations, start by spreading the word about your organization’s great work. When people see the difference you are making, they will be more likely to believe in your mission–and to support it with their dollars.

How Do I Message These Donors: Highlight aspects of your mission and how the nonprofit is working to achieve it.

18. They Want to Contribute to Someone Larger Than Themselves

One of the most common reasons people choose to donate is because they want to contribute to something larger than themselves. When we give to charity, we are investing in a cause that is bigger than ourselves. We are supporting an organization that is working to make a positive impact in the world. When we give, we are choosing to be part of something larger than ourselves and making a difference in the world.

How Do I Message These Donors: Emphasize in your communications how the nonprofit is making a huge impact with beneficiaries.

Discovering someone’s motivations for giving can be key to converting him into a donor. Use these 18 motivations as guidelines for preparing appeals to speak to one or more reasons for giving.