Many nonprofits believe that if people just knew about the urgency of the need, they would give. The reality is that the main reasons people give to an organization are not necessarily rationally based. Giving is more likely based on feelings, emotions, and perceptions. These are the main factors that influence giving.

Donors’ personal preferences

People usually give because of how they feel about the charity and the solution it provides.  Donors give from the heart, not because it is rational – donors want to feel like they have made a difference in the world.

Donors describe their tastes as causes ‘close to my heart’, things that ‘touch a chord’ and charities ‘that I admire.’ It’s a lot easier to move donors when the values you enact match the values they also hold.

Donors’ associations

Donors are influenced by those in their social circles, as well as role models. So, if a friend, celebrity, or someone else they admire donates to a charity, they are more likely to donate as well.

As a nonprofit organization, you should be cultivating good relationships with everyone, including people of influence, to gain a credible reputation. If your donors feel appreciated and that their contributions are making a difference, they will become your advocate, and you will, in turn, gain new donors through their circle of influence.

Donors’ perception of your organization

Even if your organization is doing good work and making a demonstrable impact, donors will be attracted to your charity regardless of how slick your marketing is or how fancy your annual benefit might be. Most donors give for impact, not flash.

If it takes too long to receive an acknowledgment… if you ignore something they told you (like wanting to keep their gift anonymous)… if you spell their name wrong… they’ll perceive you as inefficient. Other common proxies for assessing competence include: frequency and estimated cost of charity mailings; flashy communications; sending gifts perceived to be a waste of donor resources.

As you approach donors, appeal to their feelings. Make sure their perceptions of your organization are accurate and that they are representing you accurately to others. And most importantly, ensure that your donors always feel like they are making a difference in the world when they contribute to your organization.