The Science behind charity donations

To reach your fundraising targets, it is essential to understand what motivates potential donors to donate money and engage with your charity. It's vital to maintain relationships with donors, supporters and volunteers, as well as reaching and inspiring new ones. 

People are often motivated to donate because of a personal connection to a chosen charity, often driven by their own experiences. It's also common for people to want to engage with yearly events such as Common Relief or the Race for Life.

So where does your charity fit into the donor landscape?

The one thing these charities and events have in common is the impact that the act of giving has on donors. For example, according to numerous scientific studies, by Science of Philanthropy Initiative, donating to charitable organisations can have a positive impact on your mood. These and other common factors that impact donors, present you with areas you can focus on when developing your donor journey, retention and donation strategy.

We have looked into the UK's donating and fundraising habits and what your organisation can learn from these.

The power of storytelling

Storytelling is a useful way to create charitable intent. By sharing a story on how the issue has impacted someone's life and the benefit they receive from a charity like yours can have a substantial effect on the consumer. 

By taking them through an emotional journey, potential donors begin to relate to the issue addressed by the charity. Comparing similar matters in their own or loved one's lives, and emotionally investing in not just the cause but in your charity as a solution. Once your charity makes the connection, you show your supporters an opportunity to help by donating money or volunteering; this creates upbeat 'feel good' emotions, which entices people to do more.

Storytelling is a critical way to enhance future donation intention, the power of storytelling when communicating with existing benefactors, strengthens their emotional involvement and encourages them to continue supporting your cause.

Social influence

Social media has become a hugely influential platform, ideal for storytelling and allowing your organisation and message to reach new audiences easily. 

Studies have looked at social influence and noticed how charitable giving is contagious; the research suggests that one person can inspire another or perhaps even hundreds, from their social media account. Resulting in a domino effect amongst peers, social influencers and celebrities, which can lead to an influx of generosity to an organisation. 

Charitable giving can become a 'trend' on social media platforms, such as the 2020 NHS Run 5, Donate 5 which saw a running challenge take place on Instagram, to raise money for the NHS to deal with the ongoing pandemic COVID-19. The challenge saw every person who took part donate £5 to the NHS through multiple platforms and tag five friends to do the same, quickly becoming the fastest spreading viral charity campaign and raising over £5m for the NHS. 

Social media allows charities to share stories and information on multiple platforms such as Youtube and Instagram, to reach new audiences within seconds, which can have a significant impact on donations and indirectly nudge people to donate. 

Craving feel-good emotions

Another example of consumers craving an emotional 'feel-good' moment by donating is the Just Giving page for Captain Sir Tom Moore. It raised over £32m for the NHS, creating one of the most successful and influential fundraising stories ever seen. The story and page were shared amongst local newspapers and social media platforms, eventually ending up on national news channels. Millions shared their support for Mr Moore on walking the length of his garden 100 times before his 100th birthday. 

The public's reaction to this fundraising campaign comes from the need for good news during a difficult time, prompting the desire to take part and contribute to an excellent cause to feel good. 


In summary, your charity can learn a lot from behavioural science studies, which show that spending on and helping others makes us happier. 

Implement a social media strategy which can become contagious and share meaningful stories to build awareness while creating an emotional connection to your cause. By understanding what makes a donor support your charity and give generously, allows you to create a donor journey that increases acquisition, and improves donor retention by building a genuine connection.

If you’d like to improve your NFP’s donor journey and assess your historical fundraising performance. Book a fundraising fitness test today by emailing hello@dreamscape.solution.

About the author

Natalie Archer

Transform Your Operational Performance

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