Why People Give ... and Why They Don't


Editor's note: Read Ron Fredman's article on "Why People Give," exclusively in From the Green Room. 


Why People Give


  1. You ask them to give.
  2. They know their gifts will make a difference.
  3. They know their gifts will have an impact.
  4. You recognize them for their gifts.
  5. You allow them to gain personal connections with other individuals who are passionately involved in some meaningful dimension of life.
  6. You allow them to get back at the corrupt or unjust.
  7. They have the discretionary wealth to give it away.
  8. They feel it’s their duty.
  9. You allow them to relieve guilt about an ethical, political, or personal transgression, whether real or imagined.
  10. You enable them to “do something” about a major problem or issue.
  11. You enable them to offer opinions and share their attitudes.
  12. You help them learn about a complex and interesting problem or issue.
  13. They are afraid the project will fail without them.
  14. You give them the chance to release emotional tension cause by a life-threatening situation, critical emergency or an ethical dilemma.
  15. They believe it is a blessing to do so.
  16. You give them tax benefits. 
  17. You give them a chance to be associated with a famous or worthy person.
  18. You give them the opportunity to “belong” to something as a member, friend or supporter.
  19. You give them something tangible in return.
  20. They have a philanthropic and giving habit.
  21. You help them preserve their world view by validating cherished values and beliefs.
  22. They have demonstrated that they support organizations like yours.
  23. They know their gifts will accomplish something right now.
  24. You appreciate them for their gifts.
  25. You acknowledge the values they express in their giving.
  26. You encourage them to change people’s lives with their gifts.
  27. You highlight their worthiness.
  28. Others they respect have given and invite them to make a gift.
  29. You aid them in doing something for a family member, a friend, a child or grandchild.
  30. You show them a way to make a gift and get a personal return.
  31. They can help achieve a goal.
  32. They can express personal gratitude for something that helped them or their family.
  33. They can honor personal achievement.
  34. They can focus attention on an agency with which they identify.
  35. You have made it easy to make a gift by offering pledge payments, credit cards, etc.
  36. You have been thorough in your presentation and they can’t see a reason not to give.
  37. They respect the leaders of the organization.
  38. You tell the truth.
  39. You listen to their needs and ambitions.
  40. You give the donor more than they expect.
  41. You don’t argue with anyone.
  42. You return phone calls.
  43. You have every detail of your proposal well in hand.
  44. You don’t apply too much pressure to give.
  45. You develop a relationship with the donor that enhances confidence.
  46. You enjoy yourself in the fundraising work and others can see that.
  47. You seek the donor’s advice on particular aspects of the project’s need.
  48. You involve the donor’s family or company in the project.
  49. You speak clearly with confidence.
  50. You know the importance of the donor’s time and you use it wisely.
  51. Your appearance is professional and appropriate.
  52. You are creative in finding ways for the donor to make the gift
  53. Your approach to the project is creative and unique.
  54. You position your donor as your mentor or the mentor to others in the organization.
  55. You say thanks in informal ways that get the donor’s attention.
  56. You tell others of the donor’s gift and how he or she has made a difference.
  57. Your donor knows you work hard and give all you can to the company.
  58. You deal with people as people not as things.
  59. You don’t garner all the glory, but share success with others in the organization.
  60. You know there is no windfall gift — someone, somehow probably not a fundraiser or administrator — has touched that person’s life in a dramatic way.
  61. You critically evaluate yourself. What do you do well? What do others do better?
  62. You are persistent in your solicitation of the gift.
  63. You don’t blame others when you are at fault.
  64. Your company or institution works as a team; you work for the greater good.
  65. Your ego has not out-distanced your message.
  66. You follow up after a request has been made.
  67. You are not discouraged easily.
  68. When you are told no, you listen to see if you can learn from this temporary setback.
  69. You are consistent in the themes of your presentations.
  70. You think of the group or organization first and yourself second.
  71. Your company is focused on its mission and is not trying to be all things to all people.
  72. You don’t procrastinate on calling prospects and donors.
  73. You respond promptly to questions asked by your donor.
  74. You establish a personal bond with the prospect.
  75. The donor is inspired by the potential of the project.
  76. The integrity of the organization strengthens the donor’s confidence.
  77. The company pays its bills on time.

Why People Don't Give


  1. Failure to ask for a specific gift 
  2. No plan
  3. No powerful supporters
  4. A concern about management
  5. A concern about investments
  6. Inadequate communications
  7. Inadequate prospect research
  8. Wrong solicitors
  9. Premature solicitation
  10. Failure to ask for gift to have impact
  11. Failure to suggest ways to give
  12. Impersonal solicitation
  13. No follow up
  14. Pushy, pressured process
  15. Dissatisfaction with artistic choices or performance quality

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