What Motivates Your Donors to Give?
When considering giving motivations, most nonprofits turn to their well-tested case for giving or a list of organizational features. More sophisticated organizations turn to recent survey data that provides details about their donor base or a group of donor personas. However, it’s not enough to use either source to determine true donor motivation due to the following challenges:
Problem No. 1: It’s All About You
Most answers to the motivation question start (and finish) with the organization. Instead of considering the donor, many develop a thoughtful list of features that are worthy of donation. While these features provide valuable content, they do not represent what motivates an individual to give.
Problem No. 2: Accurately Describing Motivation (But Whose Motivation?)
Organizations often consider donors as a generic group or make assumptions about targeted segments. Research studies often reveal compelling donor personas, but those personas are rarely connected to individuals. The lack of individual connection ensures that communications remain generic and struggle to drive engagement or make the wrong case and lose the donor’s interest.
Solution: Ask Them
In an ideal world, you would ask each contributor to describe his or her motivations in a personal interview. You would then tailor each communication to focus on the interests of each individual donor. You may be thinking that you can’t do that for anyone outside of the major gifts category. However, you can with smart surveys and analytics.
Step 1: Design the survey to map to individuals
Start with the goal of assigning motivations to every individual on your file. Then design the market research to accomplish that goal.
Start with a deep, qualitative survey (via one-on-one phone calls) to uncover motivational themes. Follow up with a larger quantitative study to validate (or contradict) the themes uncovered in the phone interviews. From there, identify motivational segments and assign a motivation to each individual on your file through statistical modeling.
Step 2: Uncover true motivation—not interests
As you might suspect, I have a motivational research approach in mind. This approach rests on the theory that approximately 95 percent of our decisions are made in our unconscious mind. For example, do you remember every step (or any step) of today’s morning commute? Decisions are made at four distinct levels:
Level 1: Attributes—the features of your organization.
Example: “You save lives, promote research, help children.”
Level 2: Functional consequences—perceived benefits of the features.
Example: “I feel in control on making an impact.”
Level 3: Personal consequences—personal benefits delivered.
Example: “I feel empowered.”
Level 4: Personal values—the deep-rooted need that is fulfilled.
Example: “I am protecting my family.”
See the difference? Most focus the case for giving on attributes and, if sophisticated, the functional consequences. How would your case for giving change if you focused on personal values and made this person feel empowered to protect his or her family?
As an example, a non-religious, youth-enablement organization uncovered that a key motivating consequence for a large portion of its donors (11 percent) was “religious salvation.” In other words, donors were motivated to give by faith to an organization that has no faith affiliation.
Research is only valuable if it measurably improves fundraising outcomes. Invest the time to develop an effective case for each identified motivation. Drive outcomes by assigning that targeted case to individuals based on their personal motivation. In the march toward individualized fundraising, understanding your donors’ personal values is a critical step.
At Merkle, Chris is a senior leader in the Quantitative Marketing Group and leads a team of talented analysts leveraging advanced predictive techniques to drive net revenue and build donor pipelines for some of the leading nonprofits in the country. He strives to drive insight into donor data across all fundraising programs, use this knowledge to build constituent engagement that maximizes long-term donor value and ensure his partners thrive today while building a foundation to advance their mission over the long term.
Chris brings to Merkle over 10 years of experience in nonprofit marketing, analytics, and thought leadership, having previously served on the executive committee at the leader in higher education marketing. Chris has had the opportunity to partner with some of the largest and most recognizable institutions in the country to leverage personalized marketing to achieve their enrollment and advancement goals. Prior to his time in higher education, Chris held various analytic positions in financial services. Chris holds a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School of Business.