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If you’re involved in nonprofit work, you’ve probably thought a lot about what motivates people to donate their hard-earned income to a charitable cause. While much has changed in the nonprofit realm over the last 20 years, the underlying reasons for donating to charity are essentially the same. But exactly how people give and the methods they use have shifted and evolved as nonprofits have taken their fundraising online. 

Mobile giving, peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding have redefined the giving landscape in new and exciting ways. In order to tap into donors’ generosity, you first need to understand what motivates them so you can tailor your fundraising methods accordingly. 

The evolution of online giving and new patterns in generosity  

Charitable giving was never the same after nonprofits first took their fundraising efforts online. And online giving has continued to redefine the way people give and the methods nonprofits use to fundraise. Organizations swapped out direct mail requests for email marketing campaigns and fundraising galas for virtual fundraising drives that required almost no overhead. It became effortless to reach thousands of supporters around the globe with just a few clicks of the mouse. 

In 2012, the Giving Tuesday movement ignited a new wave of generosity across the world, raising over $400 million to date and changing end-of-year fundraising strategies for nonprofits everywhere. Now, 54% of donors worldwide actually prefer to give online with a debit or credit card, so it’s no surprise that the crowdfunding market is expected to grow 89.72 billion from 2018 to 2022—and with it, new avenues to encourage generosity.

What motivates donors to give? 

Whether it’s to feel good about oneself or to support a cause that hits close to home, there are many reasons why people support a charity. Below are three major reasons that compel people to open their wallets. 

They can see the impact of their gift

It’s critical to show and tell your donors exactly how their financial support is making an impact. Otherwise, donors may feel like they’re tossing their money into a black hole. This especially matters to millennials, who said the most important factor in their charitable giving was knowing how their gifts would make a difference. It’s likely that this will be just as important to Gen Zers, who will make up 36% of the global workforce by 2020

They are moved by an individual’s story

When pushing out a new marketing campaign, don’t forget about the power of one. In other words, highlight an individual who has benefitted from your mission and tell their story—people are more moved by stories than pie charts, after all.

Studies have shown that people are more likely to donate when they connect with a specific individual’s story instead of being fed data about a large group of people in need. Focusing on a single individual who represents a larger group or issue also helps reduce compassion collapse. This phenomenon is a lack of empathy that can occur when we’re faced with an overwhelming number of people in need and fail to understand the needs on an individual level. 

They’re just waiting to be asked

One study revealed that for more than 85% of charitable donations, people donated simply because they were asked to. This reveals what most of us probably already know: sometimes all we need is a small nudge to move us in the right direction, especially when it comes to parting with our money. Other studies have revealed that the request size can also make a difference. People were much more willing to comply with a donation request when they were asked to give a small amount, such as $5. 

Four ways to harness generosity online

Keeping in mind the points above, let’s dive into three ways your nonprofit can ensure your online presence will encourage generosity among supporters. 

1. Make your mission statement clear

When was the last time you performed a content audit on your website? Have you updated your “about” page within the last year? Research found that when looking to donate, nine out of 10 millennials will first go to the page on a nonprofit’s website that describes the organization’s mission. Studies revealed that a gift impact statement can be a factor that increases donations. Millennials are now the largest demographic in the US, according to CNN, so it makes sense to consider their giving habits.  

2. Tap into mobile giving

40% of nonprofit website traffic comes from mobile users, according to Charity Navigator, and that figure is likely to rise as we come to rely even more on mobile devices in our day-to-day. It makes sense that the latest evolution in online giving focuses on mobile giving. Is your website optimized for mobile? Have you employed a text-to-give option? Making it as seamless as possible for people to donate on mobile will become increasingly important. 

3. Find a solid peer-to-peer platform

Nonprofit software is nothing new, but not all enterprise software offers an intuitive peer-to-peer option. By empowering your supporters to fundraise on your behalf, you’ll be able to reach new networks and new fundraising goals. Make sure you choose nonprofit fundraising software that is contract-free and doesn’t require subscription fees. 

4. Ask them why they give

Take the guesswork out of the equation and go straight to the source by asking your donors exactly why they were motivated to support your organization in the past. What would they like to hear more about? What would encourage them to give again in the future? These are important questions that can only be answered by reaching out. Sending out a survey will allow you to leverage insights from your most devoted supporters while also demonstrating your commitment to them. 

Use donor motivation and giving insights to make a bigger impact

If nonprofits can truly understand how and why individuals give, they’ll be better equipped to navigate and anticipate current and future giving movements. Data gleaned from studies can reveal helpful altruistic trends, but remember to spend time uncovering why your own donors give back. By tailoring your fundraising campaigns to your supporters’ specific interests and needs, you’ll be able to motivate them to keep giving.