What do donors want? (part 2)

Continuing from yesterday. If impact isn’t what drives nonprofit donors, what is it? Can we learn by thinking about what voters want from Congresspeople want from voters? Some thoughts:

  • Pork: specific material benefits. But let’s look at these: pork means jobs, but also infrastructure projects that provide more general benefits to a community (better roads, hospitals). So it’s not necessarily that I personally benefit, but that people like me or people in my community benefit. Similar with nonprofits. But it can go further: I might give to a nonprofit that benefits people that aren’t like me, or even in my community, but that *deserve* help, in my view of things. This is where changing what donors want gets tricky, because it’s tied up with cultural images of who’s deserving and not. The history of welfare reform would be instructive here, I think.
  • Cultural affinity: or the beer question – would I want to have a beer with this person? Can I relate to this person on a cultural level, are they like me, do they speak for me. Representation and voice are important dynamics in the nonprofit sector, and I don’t know that we understand teem as much as we do in politics (which may not be all that, that much). A lot of nonprofits are focusing on the social dimension of their work, leveraging social media to form closer bonds with their donors – recognizing the importance of this factor.
  • Ideological purity: some people have very specific beliefs, and want to see those beliefs represented, often in opposition to other belief systems out there. A subset of nonprofit donor motivation, certainly.
  • Party alignment: this is where politics is kind of distinctive, in that Congresspeople are organized into parties. Why are they? Parties help determine who’s on the ballot and help fund campaigns. There’s no real analog among nonprofits (other than maybe membership associations, but those aren’t necessarily partisan). Unless the alignment among some nonprofits is also with┬ápolitical parties! Perhaps surprising there’s not more of that….
  • Policy preferences: you can tell I’m a political scientist because I put this last. Voters may want certain policies enacted, and elect Congresspeople who can (credibly?) promise to do so, with the knowledge that they can throw the bums out if they don’t deliver. Just like a subset of nonprofit donors are motivated by advocacy groups that work on policy, so a subset of voters is driven by policy positions. But many are not. How might this insight apply to our understanding of donors?

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply