What motivates a person to open up their hearts and wallets to donate to an organization or a cause? There are many reasons — ranging from the desire to do good, to wanting to be remembered or gain recognition, to seeking a tax credit or deduction. And of course, some give simply because they were asked.  

This is in contrast to the reasons that faith-based donors give. A faith-based donor sees giving as a matter of faith guided by God’s call to love and serve our neighbors. The Bible says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). In some religions, members freely give one-tenth of their earning every year to the Church, a practice called tithing. 

Jesus teaches us about the Corporal Works of Mercy. Many faith-based organizations are centered on meeting basic needs of humanity such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and visiting the sick. These charitable actions give us a model for how we should treat others. 

Understanding people’s motivation to give allows you to make it more clear how your organization can help them meet their own needs or obligations. Let donors know that their gift provides an opportunity to answer these calls from God in the Corporal Works of Mercy. By joining their gifts and resources with those of others, the donor can look beyond him or herself and provide help to those in need. 

According to the Giving USA 2018 Annual Report on Philanthropy published by The Giving Institute, religious groups received the largest share of charitable donations in 2017 (for a total of $127.37 billion, or roughly one-third of all donations made to organizations). Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. 
Understanding why donors stop 
It is also important to understand why people stop giving — and there are many. At the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in March 2016, a survey presented by Steven Shattuck unveiled several explanations:

  • More than 50% of donors stopped giving because they could no longer afford to give.
  • Around one-third of donors felt that other organizations were more deserving.
  • Other reasons donors cited were poor communications, never receiving thank-you messages, never receiving information on how monies were used, and the impression that the charity did not need them.

The first of these reasons is unavoidable. However, the other reasons are the direct result of weak donor communications — a problem that can definitely be fixed.

Knowing the reason that a faith-based donor gives, you need to treat the ask differently. More broadly, you can use this insight to inform the tactics of your development plan. Some ideas include:

1.    Clearly ask donors to give. Christians give to show their love and thanksgiving to God for all that He has given them. They are commanded to give in the Bible. Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8)

2.    Communicate with a faith-based message. Emails and direct mail should resonate with a faith-based audience. The tone and images should be respectful. 

3.    Tie a religious connection to special events. For an annual appeal at a diocese, the cardinal or archbishop could have a special mass followed by a small reception where donors could have their photo taken with the cardinal. 

4.    Explain to recipients what their support is achieving. Send emails or materials that demonstrate that donors’ dollars are well spent in fulfilling the mission. Donors want to know that their gift will be used for the good of the organization.

5.    Offer prayer requests. Give donors the option to send in special prayer intentions. 

6.    Inscribe a dedication. Some donors who desire a permanent legacy may want an opportunity for a lasting recognition of their support, either for themselves or to honor or recognize someone special in their lives. Some options are brick dedications, recognition walls or special altars.

7.    Ask donors for their prayers. Your donor believes in the power of prayer and would be willing to pray for your cause. If they are praying for your organization, they are more likely to give.

The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent, and in other cases, giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the church. The Bible states that every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. 

Again, knowing why people give is essential to your fundraising efforts, because it makes it easier to know how and when to approach the donor.