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Motivations of charity supporters

Why did your supporter choose to support your cause, and does it matter?

By Claire Fuller | Marketing Fundraising Consultancy Creative | 05 June 2018

I’ve recently signed up to take part in a 26.2 mile walk (yes, you read it right, I’m going to walk a marathon!) in aid of a well-known cancer charity. In my more sensible moments I’ve been considering what’s made me take up this challenge (I’m no fitness expert) and whether my motivations really matter to me, or to the charity I’m raising money for.

The result of my thinking – Yes! I believe a supporter’s motivation to get involved absolutely matters to them as an individual, but it should also matter to the charity they’re raising money for.

In these next few paragraphs I’ll explore some of the main reasons why I (and many others) choose to support charities and what differences these motivations can make to the charities that will be benefitting.

5 reasons that motivate people to support charities and events

Studying for the Institute of Fundraising’s Certificate in Fundraising has offered me the opportunity to consider donor behaviour in greater detail.  Articles by fundraising experts like Sargeant, Woodliffe and Webber have shown me that there are many reasons why people choose to support causes. Here are 5 reasons I think are key (some are undoubtedly part of my marathon motivation!):

  1. Belief in the charity / a personal connection to it – As a survivor of childhood leukaemia I have a personal interest in the goal to research and eradicate cancer.  Therefore when choosing where to direct my own charitable giving I often find myself supporting those charities where I see a connection to my own experiences and others I know going through similar situations
  2. Benefit to the supporter – Giving makes you feel good (have you ever had that warm glow when you’ve been generous with a gift?) and in the case of a sporting event (like a marathon walk) it can have it’s own health benefits for the participant too!
  3. Wanting to make a difference – It can be a huge motivator when people can tangibly see the difference that their support will make to the cause
  4. To have fun – For many people there is no greater incentive to take part in a charity event than to know you’re going to have a fun, well-organised day out whilst also being able to make a difference in the life/lives of others
  5. Peer Motivation – It’s amazing how many others choose to get involved in charitable giving because they want to support their friends – I was amazed when two other members of the Yeomans team quickly decided to join me in the marathon walk –  There was no pressure involved, I hasten to add (although it’s worth remembering that peer pressure can also be a factor that “encourages” people to get involved)!

Of course I recognise that people will also choose to support charities and events for many other reasons, and they may wish to keep their motivations private, which is fine too! 

Knowing that there are so many possible motivators for charitable support I can’t help but wonder, how does/should this affect charities as they aim to build lasting relationships with their valued supporters? 

Child having fun

Why is it helpful for a charity to know the motivations of its supporters?

  1. To provide appropriate materials to assist supporters – In the case of a sporting event, charities may wish to provide advice/assistance with training – if supporters feel that they “matter” to the charity too this is likely to encourage them further with their fundraising
  2. To provide appropriate goals – It’s helpful for charities to know (where possible) the level of giving they can expect to achieve from a supporter.  Armed with this information charities can tailor their fundraising asks to reflect a supporter’s likely giving level whilst also giving them that “warm glow” by showing them the difference they’re making
  3. To provide appropriate information – It’s helpful to provide supporters with information that highlights the reason they believe in your charity in the first place – a passionate advocate who’s equipped with relevant information will be even more likely to encourage others to lend their support too
  4. To allow your supporters to have a voice – As supporters have their own reasons for getting involved it can be helpful to provide them with an opportunity to share their own story (i.e. on a giving platform).  Real life, personal examples shared with their family, friends and network can be a powerful encouragement for others to get involved too
  5. To help them have fun – Perhaps a small goodie bag, or a lighthearted tone in your supporter information pack can add to the fun for your supporters even more.  Don’t underestimate the impact of a supporter who’s got a smile on their face!

Don’t forget, at the end of an event or campaign it’s vital to thank supporters too and if a charity knows why their supporters chose to get involved in the first place this can enable them to produce an even more appropriate, meaningful and personal thank you.  From my experience as a charity supporter, I know that when I’m genuinely thanked and believe that my support has helped to make a real difference that’s another great motivator for future involvement!

If you need help tailoring your next fundraising activity to meet the different motivations and needs of your supporters, please get in touch with us, we’d love to work with you.


Institute of Fundraising’s Certificate in Fundraising

Gift Giving: An interdisciplinary review

Understanding Charity Fundraising Events

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