Study on "Why People Give" Surprises Researchers

by ekramer on October 22, 2009

A new study from Indiana University’s Center for Philanthropy aims to help nonprofits perform better at fundraising by indentifying why people donate. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

IU researchers collected data from more than 10,000 households and found that reasons for giving correlated with education levels and income, no matter the region.

The study challenges earlier research that states people in different regions throughout the country give for different reasons relating to shared regional values.

The center’s Melissa Brown says people with incomes more than $100,000 say they give to improve their communities, while different reasons were behind responses from households earning the median income of $50,000.

“People with that median income level and lower, responded that ‘meeting basic needs’ and ‘helping the poor help themselves’ — those were the kinds of things that mattered to them in their giving,” she says. “Those were their top motivations.”

Brown is the center’s associate director of research.

The study comes during a deep recession and aims to help nonprofits perform better at fundraising.

“We’re very interested in helping nonprofits generate the revenue that they need to do the work that they want to undertake,” Brown says. “And we started this study thinking and expected to find strong regional differences in part because of that history of other people’s work that talked about culture heritage and we found that it’s not there.

Brown says the center is now working on another study that seeks to pinpoint the feelings that cause people to make charitable donations.

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