Communicating with Donors from Different Income Levels

Research has discovered important differences in the motivations and behaviors of lower income, middle income donors, and high income donors. It is critical to consider these differences as you reach out to donors and tailor the message of your donor campaigns. Here are some of the major findings from research on this topic:

Lower income donors

Donors with incomes less than $50,000 are sometimes referred to as "hands-on" givers. Personal experience drives donations among this group. A majority of these donors state that it is important to them that the organizations helped them or someone they know (see Understanding Giving, A Report of the Colorado Generosity Project, 2011). Similarly, those with income less than $50,000 are more likely to report "basic needs" and helping the "poor help themselves" as the primary motivations for giving (see Understanding Donors' Motivations 2009 The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University).

Middle income donors

Donors with incomes between $50,000 and $99,000 are much more difficult to describe. The underlying motivation for giving among these donors is to "make the world better." These donors are more likely to volunteer instead of giving when compared to high income donors. They also support causes at lower rates than the other income groups, preferring to donate in convenient and local ways. Given this local focus, donors from this income bracket are sometimes called "community builders."

High income donors

Among donors with income of $100,000 or greater, the motivations for giving include helping those with less and making my community better.The defining characteristic among these donors is their deliberate approach in choosing which organizations to support. For example, these donors put more effort into researching charities than the other income groups. They also cite the importance of trust in their decisions to give. Finally, donors at the highest income level are most likely to state that tax benefits associated with giving are an important factor in their decision-making.


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