Philanthropy and Giving Insights





7 Reasons People Don’t Give to Your Cause


The work you’re doing is great. Your organization is making a difference in your community, and your team is full of passionate, qualified people.


But the money isn’t coming in.


As a fundraiser, it can be easy to feel at a loss when people aren’t giving. What are you doing wrong? Do people not care? 


The truth is, there are a few common reasons that people don’t give to your cause. The good news? You can fix these issues and see tangible results for your bottom line.


Reason #1: You haven’t asked


One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make is failing to ask. While we all dream of an unsolicited $1 million check in our mailbox, those phenomena are rare. You have to ask people. Learning to create personalized and direct asks for your audience will help you to grow your donor base more than any other change.


Reason #2: They don’t think you need them


Some nonprofits also struggle to show donors that they are needed. We easily fall into the fallacy that we want to only be positive and encouraging when we communicate. The reality is that people give to relieve suffering when they see a deep need—and so your asks need to balance reality and dignity with honest communication of the challenges your community faces.


Reason #3: They don’t think their gift will matter


Another common misconception potential donors have is that their gift won’t make a difference. Often, this comes from a misunderstanding of what kind of donors you’re looking for. Some people think that only checks with a lot of zeroes have any kind of impact—so find ways to challenge that assumption in your fundraising. Two easy ways to do this are to use prefilled fields for donations that are lower amounts and to emphasize the broad community of donors that they will be joining.


Reason #4: You’re pushing the wrong button


Why do people give to your nonprofit? While the easy answer is to help fill a need, there is an intense emotional component to donating. Usually, that means your donors feel strongly about some part of your cause. But if you’re like most nonprofits, you do a lot of good work! If your fundraising is low, try testing out an appeal that focuses on a different angle of what you do. Some donors may care more about one piece of your mission than another part. A simple A-B test can go a long way to discovering if you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing.


Reason #5: You aren’t on their mind


This gets back to #1. If you don’t ask your audience and you aren’t on their minds, why would they be giving to you? Think through how often you communicate with donors and what mediums you use. Emails can get lost in clutter or spam, direct mail can get thrown out without opening, and social media posts can get hidden behind the algorithm. Realize that most of your supporters won’t see every communication you send. Double down.


One quick caveat—if you start to see unsubscribe rates climb dramatically, you may have tipped the scale too far the other way. Be consistent, but don’t spam people.


Reason #6: You’re making it really hard


Have you ever tried to help a friend or a cause and quit in the middle because they made it so difficult? One of the saddest phenomenon in fundraising is dropoffs. When people start the process to give you a donation, that means you’ve succeeded! You’ve convinced them your cause is needed, your organization is worthwhile, and the time is worth it. 


But then they stop in the middle of donating. There’s a lot of reasons this can happen, but one of the biggest is a poorly designed or lengthy donation form. Instead of making it harder for your constituents to give, find ways to streamline! Tools like CharityGiving’s OneClickDonation can make it possible for donors to give in just a few clicks—decreasing dropoff rates and increasing your fundraising!


Reason #7: They don’t trust you


The yearly Trust Barometer Report released by Edelman found that only 57% of people trust nonprofits to do the right thing. Building trust in your community is incredibly important. Easy ways to do this? Offer tours, engage in community events, address complaints both online and in-person, and pursue press coverage. Getting your name in front of the community in positive ways can go a long way to improving their trust of your organization, and their willingness to contribute.


If one of these reasons made your heart sink, don’t give up! When the problem is with something you are doing, you can change it! Making small changes to each of these categories will help connect with your donors and change the way they think about your organization—which means more dollars for your cause.