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Understanding Donor Motivation and Behaviour Among Middle – Class Americans

The primary purpose of this study is to gain further insight into why donors give money to charitable organizations, looking particularly at American middle class households. The study examines the giving patterns, priorities, attitudes, and motivations of American households for the year 2014. This research has three major goals: (1) to obtain further insight into why Middle - Class Americans give money to charitable organizations, what they want from their giving and what drives them, (2) to compare charitable giving motivations and behavior amongst middle class and wealthy households, 3) ) to create segments to help understand donor behavior. The intent is to create segmentations based on underlying motivations to help charities understand not just how and when donors give, but why. The most recent Internal Revenue Service records of Americans show that middle-class Americans give a far bigger portion of their discretionary income to charities compared to their wealthy counterparts (How America Gives, 2014; Stern, 2013). Academic literature has little to no content on the American middle – class donor group. This study attempts to bridge the gap in the literature by exploring empirically class difference in motives for charitable giving. The study was conducted in the United States during August, 2015 and consisted of a 30 question web survey. 211 subjects participated via online platforms. The main statistical methods used to analyze survey data include; cluster analysis, cross tabulation, classification tree analysis, analysis of variance, and significance testing. This study reveals that 92.5 percent of middle class households gave to charity in 2014. Middle class donors are impact driven, and are consistently motivated to give because they feel moved about how their gift can make a difference, they want to give back to the community, make the world a better place, and they feel that those who have more should help those with less. The survey data illustrated that income and education are significant characteristics when understanding differences in donor motivation and behavior, including preferences for cause, level of charitable commitment and knowledge on charitable giving. Furthermore, classification tree analysis was used to identify the variables that are most related to level of charitable giving. It was concluded that average annual donation increases with 1) household income, 2) religious attendance, 3) knowledge about charities, and 4) age. The survey results identified four distinctive segments of donors based on differences in attitudes and motivations. The analysis clustered people based on the things that matter to them, which gave us insight into why they give and what they want from charities. The segmentation provides a rich resource for understanding and influencing donors. This thesis hopes to provide new information and insight into donors’ underlying motivations for giving, and opportunities to influence it, whilst providing the nonprofit sector with useful data needed to produce marketing strategies that are more efficient at both targeting and retaining donors. This study is an initial attempt to investigate the relationship between giving motivations, behavior, marketing strategies and fundraising efforts. I expect the findings from the research to provide a platform for further research and discussion, thus make a small contribution to improving marketing efforts among charities. In particular, the results of this study will enable researchers to “test” the findings and put the segmentation in practice while gathering evidence on the impact of doing so. The aim is to increase quantity and quality of giving worldwide.
Type of thesis
Marten, C. (2015). Understanding Donor Motivation and Behaviour Among Middle – Class Americans (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10295
University of Waikato
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