Why People Give and How to Foster Their Generosity – Part One

January 27, 2023

Part One: Why People Give and How to Foster Their Generosity: Two-Part Blog Series

After nearly three years of global health crisis … political and social discord … apprehension and uncertainty … it can be especially easy to get entangled in the loop of negativity. Yet, one thing has not been lost (even in the worst of times) is the resilience of human compassion. There have always been, and we believe always are, people willing to give to others.

Giving USA found in 2020 alone, Americans donated $471.44 billion to charity, which is a 5.1% increase in charitable giving over 2019. Moreover, the National Philanthropic Trust reports that “approximately 90% of high-net-worth households give to charity,” according to recent studies. That means that countless people across the nation continue to give back to the organizations they value and trust.

What, exactly, makes someone open their wallet — and their heart. What compels a person to pull out their credit card and hit the donate button … or to write a check and mail it in.

Most importantly, what moves donors to choose your organization over another.

“Giving isn’t a business transaction, it’s a human connection,” says Summit Marketing’s Senior Communications and Creative Director Tammy Nigus. “It’s never a requirement — it’s a choice.” Nigus advises, your nonprofit should always seek ways to build relationships with donors and understand what motivates them to give. This will improve your fundraising techniques and help identify ways to craft your messages more powerfully and precisely.

For more than 30 years, Summit Marketing team members have witnessed the heartwarming motivations and commitment of giving from those who support a variety of charities. We have seen this through the storytelling and multi-channel communication assistance we provide to nonprofit organizations of all sizes. And we have confirmed our findings through ongoing study and research.

Based on our experience, knowledge and expertise, Summit Marketing suggests the top eight reasons people give to charity and how to foster their generosity.

8 Reasons People Give to Charity… and How to Foster Generosity


  1. Plain and simple: They Care

As discussed earlier, the world is filled with those who have a deep concern for others. People with a passion for philanthropy often choose their favorite nonprofits because of personal connections that are unique to their beliefs, values and experiences.

Perhaps an individual has a struggling family member who receives food from a pantry. Maybe he or she has a friend who volunteers at an animal shelter — or knows a woman who escaped an abusive relationship. Even the donor themself may have “walked a mile in the shoes” of the homeless man on the corner. It stands to reason that charitable givers will choose organizations they have an affinity with rather than those with whom they have little or no connection.

The truth is you can’t make someone care about your nonprofit’s mission; they either will or won’t have a personal interest in your cause. Yet once a donor has raised their hand in support — through a financial gift, attendance at an event or volunteer experience, etc., — development professionals can serve as a key conduit for the donor’s philanthropic goals.

Nonprofit fundraisers should tailor their relationships to meet donors’ specific needs. It is important to let donor preferences guide communications so that they feel confident you can provide the right channels for all their giving needs. Never lose sight of the donor’s desire to do good and make a difference in ways that are important to them.

  1. They are motivated by faith and values

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer.” – Proverbs 11:24

Faith and values have tremendous links to charitable giving. Some religions even hold generosity and philanthropy as tenets of faith. In a poll conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 55% of Americans stated that their giving is motivated by religious commitment. Additionally, Giving USA found that in 2019, most charitable dollars were given to religious causes at 29%.

However, this doesn’t mean that only religious organizations benefit from faith-based giving. Many individuals and families who give for religious reasons donate to an array of nonprofits they trust, even those without distinct ties to their religious beliefs. In the same study, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy cites that 62% of religious households give to charities of any kind.

“The takeaway is that regardless of the organizations they support, those who give for altruistic reasons feel they have a calling to do so,” says Director of Client Services Francie Hughes at Summit Marketing. “Be sure to acknowledge their efforts and continue to offer them opportunities to give according to God’s will.”

  1. Their workplace supports and encourages it

Many businesses are joining the growing trend of implementing philanthropy into the workplace. There are mounting studies that indicate incorporating volunteerism and charitable giving has positive effects on employee health and morale, leading to increased efficiency and financial return. Benevity, Inc.’s 2020 “Goodness Engagement Study” also confirms the long-held theory that volunteer opportunities help maintain and even boost employee retention.

People often learn about charitable organizations through their employers when they otherwise would never interact with these nonprofits. When employees are given the opportunity to participate in philanthropic activities and events, they often become committed donors and volunteers outside the office. This occurs because, as mentioned in reason one, they have developed a personal relationship with and investment in a cause.

To be successful, seek partnerships with companies that share similar values or whose area of expertise ties to your nonprofit — such as a grocery chain that comes alongside a food pantry — and that have strong, positive reputations within the community.

  1. They are part of a legacy of giving

We all have traditions we hold dear year after year because of the fond memories we attribute to them. For many people, family traditions are a way of honoring loved ones and paying tribute to the past. The same is true of legacies and traditions of charitable giving.

When a family has given to a particular cause or nonprofit for years, it makes sense that younger generations will give back to the organizations that are already a part of their lives. In fact, National Philanthropic Trust states that adults are more likely to give to charity if their parents made charitable donations.

It is important that organizations recognize the potential of legacy giving and make specific efforts to maintain family relationships. Encourage dedicated donors to speak with their loved ones about their reasons for supporting your nonprofit and what it would mean to them for family members to carry on their generosity.

Check back next week to continue reading Why People Give and How to Foster Their Generosity: Two-Part Blog Series. In part two we’ll reveal the final four reasons for charitable giving, and how recognizing these motivators can revolutionize your fundraising efforts.