Nationwide charitable donations topped $400 billion for the first time ever last year. It totaled $410.02 billion, to be exact. So how can you tap into the drive people feel to support the causes they give to?

There are a surprisingly small number of key reasons:

  • They’re influenced by social networking in their circles. Online giving has made donating easier than ever. And social media has made sharing nonprofit stories easier than ever. When people see others in their social circles contributing to nonprofits, it drives them to do the same and feel a sense of common good.
  • They believe in a nonprofit’s mission. People give to causes (and stay with them) because of personal commitment and a belief that they’re positively affecting a mission that is near and dear to them. It seems obvious, but is easy to forget.
  • They have a strong desire to make a difference. The more concrete of a feeling you can give a donor that their gift will have a direct impact on a cause they feel strongly about, the better. You are their bridge to making a difference.
  • Their personal/family history. Many donors with sustained involvement in a cause aren’t the first generation in their family to do so.
  • The tax benefits. People donate to support a cause they love, but the perks don’t hurt. It’s no surprise that this is one of the main reasons.
  • The personal satisfaction. Happiness is helping others. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that generosity provides a dopamine boost in your brain.
  • They connect with your story on a personal level. Donating (and volunteering, for that matter) are acts connected to one’s emotions. And those emotions are driven by stories, not stats or mission statements. Tell your nonprofit’s story in a way that appeals to these emotions.

In short, people feel good when they contribute to a cause that makes them feel like they’re making a direct impact. Losing that feeling that their contribution matters is one of the biggest reasons donors stop giving to a nonprofit, whether the mission resonates with them or not.

When you tell your nonprofit’s story and give people a reason to feel good about where their gift is going, you’ll be surprised to see how comfortable they feel giving to the cause.