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With so many choices, what motivates a donor to give to a certain charity? With such a saturated market, how do nonprofits make themselves stand out? John B. Ford, professor of marketing in the College of Business and Public Administration at Old Dominion University, examines these and other critical questions for nonprofit organizations in a recent article published in the Journal of Business Research.

Published in February, the article is titled "Perceptual Determinants of Nonprofit Giving Behavior." After receiving a $50,000 grant from the Aspen Institute in Denver, Ford and his colleagues, Adrian Sargeant of Bristol Business School and Douglas C. West of the University of Birmingham, both in the United Kingdom, surveyed more than 1,300 U.S. charity givers to determine giving patterns and motivation.

The study, which analyzes why people give, breaks it down to two basic factors: the perceived benefit of a gift and the reputation of the organization itself.

Aside from a familial or personal connection, trust is a major factor that improves the likelihood of giving. For a nonprofit, the issue then becomes how to build a relationship of trust with its most important constituents. Ford says, "Communication is key. These organizations should share how each gift has made a difference."

He notes, however, that nonprofits are not always effective at communicating the benefits of giving on an individual level, thus personalizing their mission.

According to Ford, nonprofits often fall into the trap of promoting donors to leadership positions as a way to reward their dedication. This, more often than not, fails the organization in that a great donor does not always translate into a great leader.

"It is up to the nonprofit to nurture these relationships by demonstrating fiscal and program success," says Ford.

Ford found that a major problem for nonprofits is lack of funding to build outreach programs to communicate the mission of the organization. "In order to be fiscally responsible on a limited budget, nonprofit organizations must often cut back on services vital to their mission," he says.

The struggle for nonprofits lies in remaining altruistic to the core values of the organization and keeping a tight budget in the black. "This proves to be a leap of faith for many nonprofits," says Ford. "It's not an easy task, but we have found that they have to give to get and spend to make."

This article was posted on: March 6, 2006

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