5 tips for helping motivate donors to your non-profit

It would be ideal if charities and NFPs never had to run fundraising campaigns, just receiving the money they needed to do their good work. But, there’s a lot of competition for attention and a lot of people out there must think carefully when choosing whether to donate money or keep it for other purposes.

So, as a charity that depends on the good will of others, what can you do to help motivate donors to give to your organisation?

First, what motivates charitable giving?

When people give, it’s generally for one of two reasons: They wish to benefit themselves (it feels good), or they wish to benefit others (‘true’ altruism). The University of Alaska Anchorage recently released a piece of research on a comparison between the two, to figure out which side of the altruism coin is more likely to encourage someone to donate money.

We would encourage you to read through their article, but to summarise the findings, they discovered that:

  • Individuals who were encouraged to give money in order to feel good were 6.6% more likely to give, and their contributions were 23% larger.
  • Individuals who were encouraged to give for the betterment of others were more likely than the control group (who received no message at all) to give, but their donations were not larger.
  • Individuals who had donated before were more likely to donate again.
  • Messaging around benefiting the self (rather than others) had a greater impact on first-time donors, and even encouraged them to give again the next year. But, it wasn’t as effective on people who had donated prior.

Giving makes us feel good

The research above isn’t the only paper producing these types of results. This experiment, as well as this one, also indicate that the act of giving money makes people feel happier.

These are all factors that a non-profit or charity could consider when marketing its message. Are there ways you can highlight the joy of giving?

Tips to motivate donors to give to your organisation

1. Show your proof

Thinking more about the results above, we can see how an emotional appeal to potential donors – through showing where those donations go, or how they help – could be a way to link the act of giving to that feeling of happiness.

There are two ways we could go about this:

  1. Showcasing results: Where does the money go? People are conscious of how their money is being used and many will be wary of scams – perhaps having had bad experiences in the past. So, what do you do with the money? Who does it help? Offering these emotional stories as marketing materials and on donation web pages/forms could go far to connecting that happy feeling with giving to your organisation.
  2. Social proof: Social proof is when we see that others have done what we’re thinking of doing. When fundraising, consider if you could show your fundraising amount, donations that have been received so far, and perhaps even (with consent) the names of individuals who have donated, and messages they’d like to share. For example, Change.org utilises this concept, by allowing donors to share the reason they decided to donate and showcasing how much has been raised.

2. Warm donors up

In the world of marketing, generally it is considered best practice to ‘warm’ people up before you ask them to pay for something. It’s the difference between receiving an email from an organisation you’ve never heard of and which does not even know your name (which may appear to some people as spam), versus hearing from a company you have interacted with before, like, and which knows a few details about you already.

Ways to warm people up include:

  • Get busy on social media – so people start to see you in their feeds, and recognise your brand (and what work you do).
  • Offer value in order to people’s names and email addresses. You don’t want to harvest people’s data for no reason, nor more data than you need. But if you have an interesting book or PDF, are running a webinar, or have some other type of content offering, asking people to sign up can get you a few key details that will help you personalise any future marketing materials.
  • Personalise! If you’re going to email someone, ensure you personalise the message and know their name. Aside from being polite, it can double the chance they will respond positively (Woodpecker).

What if we really do need to talk to cold-list donors?

According to the University of Alaska Anchorage’s research above, cold-list donors were most open to messages that make the act of donating seem like it benefits them – that it feels good, or gives them a “warm glow”. This might sound like it encourages selfishness, but it’s actually quite a bit simpler than you might think.

For instance, in that experiment the two messages used were:

  • “Warm your heart”
  • “Make Alaska better for everyone”

So you see, even something as simple as just suggesting the act of giving will make you feel good can be enough.

3. Make it easy to donate: Your website

When potential donors actually get to your website (or a donation form found somewhere else), it must be as simple and easy-to-use as possible.

Some questions to consider:

  • Are the right buttons (i.e. ‘Donate Now’) prominent and do they function properly?
  • Does it work well on any device, not just desktop?
  • Will the donor be distracted while on the page or form? I.e. there are large menus at the top of the page, pop-ups appear over the form, there are large photos, videos or blocks of text increasing the load speed of the page or pushing the form itself down (so users have to scroll). Keep things as simple as possible.

In addition, as a part of your donation form we understand you may wish to capture some extra data on the donor (if they’re not already logged in). A couple of things to remember here:

  • If the user has already given you their name and email, it may feel jarring to have to give it again – so see if you can set up the system to remember who they are.
  • Try not to ask for too much at once. Only ask for data that you absolutely need, and if there’s a lot of it, consider if you could ask for more further down the line – rather than all up-front.

4. Make it easy to donate: Paying the donation

Next there’s the payment itself. If someone is giving you their money then they need to be able to do so quickly and simply, and feel that the payment was secure.

The thing is, ‘quick and simple’ means different things to different people, depending on what payment options they’re used to. A good example is credit/debit cards – they’re popular, yes, but 49% of Gen Z’ers have never owned one (Laybuy, 2019). So if that was your only payment option, you’ve potentially lost a significant number of donors.

Variety is key when it comes to online payments

Kiwis generally want variety. That will let them pay however they like to pay, whether that’s with plastic, a direct online payment portal like POLi, a digital wallet like Google Pay, an app such as PayPal, or any other variation.

Of course, you may not be able to implement every single option and that’s OK too. Talk to your donors and find out what options they enjoy, and consider the fees of each as well as the challenges (if any) of implementation. That should give you a good idea of what’s right for you.

5. Treat relationship with sponsors like a business relationship

Brands tend to operate like people, when it comes to giving. There are lots of companies out there that want to sponsor charities and NFPs but may feel that they need something in return to justify the costs – it’s the business version of that “warm glow”, in a sense.

Treat your organisation like a B2B business, not an NFP

In the business world, organisations help each other as an equal exchange. So, if you hope a company will sponsor you, what can you offer in return? Consider:

  • Your ability to help their brand reach a new audience.
  • Opportunities for their team members to speak at events.
  • Your ability to provide certain expertise to their company.
  • Your platform to offer discounts and deals from sponsors to members.

If you’re worried that members may dislike seeing messages from brands and brand sponsorships, this is where you have to be upfront and transparent in your communications. There’s a reason your organisation needs sponsors, and chances are most of your members, if not all, will understand that reason. Transparency is key.