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What motivates people to give money?

What motivates people to give money?

To be successful in fundraising, it can help a lot to think about why people give money in the first place.

Before appealing to people as to why they should choose to donate to your specific cause, it can be useful to consider why they donate money at all. Different people have different motivations, but they often fall into one of a few categories, and what motivates a person to give to one cause may also be different from what motivates them to give to another. The motivator at the heart of giving can also affect how much someone wants to give, with a strong motivator making them want to specifically save up money to give, for example in an ISA, or to get involved in fundraising, whereas a more general motivator would see them make smaller, more opportunity driven donations.

A personal connection with a cause

One of the strongest motivators to give money to a charity or cause is feeling a personal connection with what they are doing. This can be because of a significant event in their lives, for instance someone who lost someone close to them to a specific disease may feel strongly motivated to raise awareness and money for research into a cure. It could also be something that just resonates with them for a different reason, for instance a pet owner may be motivated to give to an animal shelter, or someone who has visited a third world country may want to give money to help that specific place. This is also the main motivator for people to give to local or community causes.

The principle of the cause

Similar to having a personal connection, some people are motivated to give money to causes because they support the principle of the cause. This is usually what motivates people to give to causes that align themselves with certain groups, including more controversial causes. It would be this kind of motivator that would encourage a strict vegan to give to an animal rights organisation like PETA, or a religious person to give to an organisation that is based on religious principles. Causes with political or social impact gain most of their funding through people who are motivated in this way.

Sharing the wealth

The other main motivator for people to give money is the sense that they have more than they need, and should therefore spare some of it to do general good in the world. In this case, people tend to be less focused on one cause than when a personal connection or principle is involved, and will be open to giving to any organisation that seems to be doing some good. People who feel motivated in this way often give to multiple charities, and also enjoy supporting anything that is done for a good cause, no matter what that cause is. They like buying things and attending events when the proceeds go to charity, and sponsoring people who do things like races for a cause.

Understandably, the more controversial causes will find it harder to win over this audience, as this motivator is not about the giver’s views or alignments – they will give to just about anything that is unequivocally and universally considered good.

By understanding the type of things that motivate the majority of the people who give to your own cause, it is easier to identify the best audience and approach for your fundraising efforts.

Ben Barlow is a freelance finance writer specialising in stocks and shares, forex and ISAs. After studying business at Lancaster University, Ben worked at a number of financial institutions in London and New York and is now following his passion for writing. Written in collaboration with IG Markets.



Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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