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The Psychology of Giving: Donor Love

Charitable giving is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at The Cause. We see firsthand the difference that donations can make in the lives of others. We also know what it takes from people like you who are on the front lines making that difference, which is why we are always looking to keep up to date with the latest giving trends and technology to share with you.

But what really motivates people to give in the first place? What really moves a donor through the pipeline? In this article, we will look at the psychology of giving to find out.

According to Jen Shang, the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, philanthropy psychology is the science of understanding "how people love people."


By understanding the psychology of giving, non-profits can understand donors as humans and create more meaningful connections that resonate with donors, leaving them feeling inspired and loved.


There are commonly cited reasons people give to charity, like tax deductions, being asked, belief in your work, and because they should. But something more fundamental is going on inside the human brain that motivates people to give.



Studies have shown that giving simply makes us feel good. When we donate to a charity, we feel a sense of pleasure and satisfaction from helping others. This feeling is caused by the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is also involved in the feeling of happiness that we experience when we do something good or helpful for someone else. It is also responsible for the "high" people feel when they do something pleasurable, like donating to a non-profit. This brain chemistry helps to explain why giving back makes us feel good and why we are often motivated to donate to charities and other causes.


As research by Shang indicates, the phycology of giving suggests that we as charitable organizations and fundraisers work to intensify this feeling in our donors. Not because we want their money, but because we care about them as humans.


As Shang says, “love your donors, the person, not just as a giver, and show your donors heartfelt love, not just tell them to take action.”


Showing our love for our donors as a human is the true art of fundraising.

When crafting our appeals, we should focus on our donors' emotional needs and how our organization is meeting those needs.


One meaningful way to incorporate philanthropy psychology into our fundraising appeals is to focus on the individual rather than the institution. Donors are more likely to give when they feel their donation will make a direct difference in someone's life. This means that fundraising materials should highlight stories about individuals who have benefited from our organization's work.


Another powerful motivator is the feeling of social connectedness. Help your donors feel like they're part of a community. Make sure your donors feel like they're part of something bigger.

Finally, people are also more likely to give when they feel appreciated. Show your donors how much you value their support. Thank them for their donation and let them know how their contribution will be used and the difference it will make.


Philanthropy psychology is about showing donors that you understand and care about their goals and are committed to helping them achieve their philanthropic objectives. By taking the time to build strong relationships with donors, you can demonstrate your dedication to their success and earn their trust. In turn, they'll be more likely to support your organization over the long term. And as anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows, love requires work. If we drill this all down - just love our donors.


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