Four Reasons People Fundraise for Nonprofits


The range of events and causes available to potential fundraisers and donors today means that it is especially important to understand what drives people to fundraise for a nonprofit. Any nonprofit planning a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign needs to be able to both find and motivate participants for their events, and an understanding of what actually motivates people to set goals and raise funds from their peers is important. Naturally, there are a large number of possible motivations, but our research and experience has found that these four general motivations are probably highest on the list:

Connection to the cause

Significant personal ties to a cause – whether a direct connection, or a family or friend connection – are probably the most important drivers for fundraiser participation in any peer-to-peer fundraising event.

People who strongly support the cause being benefitted are substantially more likely to participate and to energetically seek donors for their participation. The American Cancer Society-sponsored Run for Dad in New Jersey found that 100% of respondents to their survey of motivations either somewhat or strongly agreed that the importance of the cause drove their participation. However, just because a person is a supporter for a cause, does not necessarily mean that they are, or will, stay loyal to a specific nonprofit or event.

Specific support for an organization

As such, the most active and helpful participants for any nonprofit are those who are committed not just to the cause but to a specific organization. A significant pool of fundraisers who will participate in a nonprofit’s events primarily or solely out of loyalty to your brand is invaluable, and generating such a pool should always be a consideration when planning and designing events.

Personal appeals and interactions are a powerful driver of human motivation in general, and charitable activity is no different. Studies, including one done for the Defense Lake Attack Fun Run, show that when people already like, trust, and respect the people participating, they are much more likely to also fundraise for that nonprofit.

Social media also makes it much easier for nonprofits to both motivate and inspire participants to meet their digital fundraising goals and to encourage participants to reach out to broader donor pools.

Enjoyable events

When participants are not only committed to the cause but actively enjoying themselves during an event, they are much more likely to be engaged with your organization, to think highly of your events, and to recruit their social circle for donations. A number of studies on motivation (such as Neal et al, Consumer Behavior) indicate that intrinsic motivation (e.g., making the event fun) is essential to expanding your pool of participants and to motivating their digital fundraising efforts. This can include both intrinsic aspects of the event – those who enjoy dancing will likely participate in and fundraise for a dance-a-thon, for example – as well as paying attention to the availability of conveniences such as facilities and refreshments.

Participation through partner organizations

Another way people find and fundraise for nonprofit campaigns is through third-party organizations that they are affiliated with. For example, Doctors Without Borders partners with the NYC Marathon, which connects their mission with runners who otherwise would be unlikely to decide to fundraise for that organization. On the local level, working with local churches, schools and businesses to promote a fundraisng event is of course a time-honored method as well.

Image credit


Neal, C, Quester, P & Hawkins, D. Consumer Behavior: Implications for Marketing Strategy, 4th Edition. Sydney: McGraw Hill, 2004.




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