Donor Motivations for Giving Vary With Income and Education, Report Finds

Contrary to longstanding perceptions, regional trends and values have less of an impact on donor motivation than income and education, a new report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University finds.

Based on a survey of more than ten thousand households and funded by the Community Counseling Service, the report, Understanding Donors' Motivations (41 pages, PDF), found that 18 percent of respondents said the most important reason for giving to charity was to help meet basic needs for other people such as food, shelter, clothing, and heat, while 17 percent said the most important reason was to make the world a better place.

Although there were differences within each region of the country in the percentage of people who chose different motivations, the report found that such variations could be explained by regional differences in income and education rather than underlying values specific to a particular region. For example, lower-income donors (those with incomes below $50,000) most often said their motivation for giving was to help meet basic needs or help the poor help themselves, while higher-income donors (those with incomes of $100,000 or more) most often said that they were motivated by the phrase "those with more should help those with less" and a desire to improve their communities. Donors with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 were more likely than donors in the other income groups to say they gave to make the world a better place.

"Research repeatedly shows that higher income and higher education levels are associated with a greater likelihood of giving to charity and with higher average gift amounts," said IUPUI executive director Patrick M. Rooney. "With this study, we find that the ways donors describe their giving motivations also vary with income and education. This has implications for fundraising messages in all their forms."

"Donor Motivations for Giving Vary With Income and Education." Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University Press Release 10/20/2009.