Why You Need to Know About the Donor Hierarchy of Needs
Just giving to charity doesn’t necessarily meet the higher level needs. It's not its own reward. Donors may give out of guilt, fear, peer pressure, a need for acceptance or other reasons that don’t make them feel particularly good. They’re looking to you for the payback.
Do you have a “Donor Payback Plan” in place?
They’ve given you something of value (money). Now you’ve got to give them something of value in return (this will often be an intangible feeling that satisfies their needs—your job is to fan that elusive flame).
Do you know what puts the fire in your donor’s belly? Endeavor to find out. The more you want to sustain your donor’s commitment over time, the more proactive you must become. This means reaching out consistently over time to facilitate human connections— welcome your donor to the family, make your donor feel embraced, reward your donor’s sense of esteem, praise your donor for being a wonderful, unique and caring being. Show your donor how much their actions mean and how significant they are to you.
Creating life-long donors requires meeting highest-level needs, where donors feel identified: “I’m a Greenpeace supporter.” They incorporate their affiliations with you as part of their being.
Psychologists call this being self-actualized. In non-psychological or theoretical terms, at the self-actualization pinnacle, donors just feel darn good. They carry around a warm glow, representing the realization of their potential and inner peace.
This feeling is very powerful, and we human beings naturally seek it out. It’s one of the reasons why even very poor give outsized proportions of their incomes to charity.
Another way to describe this is the search for meaning in life. For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl, in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning, wrote, “Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”
Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money and energy) is a central way we strive to find meaning.