Why people give?

Jos Stelling told newspaper Trouw about his 40-year relationship with his beloved. A relationship based on friendship – perhaps the highest possible form of love – according to the interviewee. But as Jos continued talking about love he also said something that is a lesson to all fundraisers:

“All other deeds that seem loving often have an ulterior motive. I recently took a couple of steps backwards to give a beggar two euros. That may sound generous, but it is not at all, helping that beggar makes me feel good. Pure self-interest.”

People mainly donate to make themselves feel good

This is what I want to make clear to my professional colleagues during my workshops and training courses on fundraising. I could not have expressed this universal rule in fundraising better than how Jos did.

“Pure self-interest”

Your job as a fundraiser

I outline to students in my workshops their role as fundraiser: make your donors feel good. But how do you do that? It is important that you follow the following formula:

Ask – thank – report

  • A good way of asking is by showing donors a problem that THEY can solve, not your organisation. Another life they can change for the better.
  • Thanking the donor is done QUICKLY and above all personally and warm-heartedly.
  • And by reporting back to them, you can show your donor the DIFFERENCE they have actually made in someone else’s life (again: not the difference your organisation has made, but the donor).

“Wow! Someone now has a better life thanks to me.”

Make your donor the hero of the story and make your donor feel good, which in turn makes them willing to give more.

A win-win situation

I always end my workshops with a slide showing a smiley. The text reads:

“You are in the business of selling happiness to your donors.”

Doesn’t this make your job sound so much nicer?

Fulfil this role and you will become a much better fundraiser.
Enjoy selling happiness.

PS I have a free Smiley badge for fundraisers who want to sell happiness to their donors. Just send me an email with your address details and I will be happy to send you a (free) smiley badge. Wear it with pride!

Read the (Dutch) article in Trouw here.

Bas van Breemen
Senior Strategist

Subscribe to our newsletter 

Get fresh insights to help your charity grow.

More fundraising blogs