Motivations For Giving

By:  Nancy E. Peterman, Partner

Tax day has come and gone this year.  Normally, April 15 is the deadline for filing a tax return with the IRS. However, this year, due to the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday being observed on April 15 instead of April 16, 2016, tax day was moved to April 18.  The tax benefit that the United States tax code offers for philanthropic gifts is often cited as a strong motivator for giving.

GiveCentral’s 2016 report titled, Insights on Nonprofit Giving, listed 16 reasons that survey respondents marked in response to the multiple choice question: “For which, if any, of the following reasons have you ever made charitable donations?”  Respondents were able to select more than one response.  The overwhelming top choice with 58% of the votes was To help people in need.  Giving back scored second with 39%.  To leave a legacy was next to last with 4% and just ahead of the Other category, which received 3% of the responses.  Interesting enough, For a tax deduction came in at number 11 out of the 16 categories with 15% of the responses.  Certainly some people found tax benefits as a reason to give.

What wasn’t asked was if the ability to claim a tax deduction affects the timing of a gift.  As any charity will note, calendar year-end giving is usually the strongest and busiest time to appeal to donors citing the year-end as a deadline.  Most donors would not indicate that year-end was a primary motivator, but certainly a leveraging factor influencing the timing of their contributions to an organization to which they had been inclined to support.  If a donor is going to make a gift because s/he cares about the organization, then requesting it during the month of December may resonate on several fronts.  The study also showed the 27% of the responses cited In a holiday spirit as a reason to give.

In summary, the top reasons donors cite for giving are emotional.  They respond to a good story and want to feel good about the causes they support.  Giving from a sense of duty or obligation ranked far down the scale of motivating factors.  It is important to note that peer pressure is a growing trend with 20% of the respondents giving because someone they knew asked them to give.

For the full report of Insights on Nonprofit Giving by GiveCentral, which provides additional information on donor preferences, go to the following link: https://www.givecentral.org/giving-report-2016