Why Do People Give?

It is possible to answer this question in multiple ways. People give out of a sense of love, appreciation, duty, responsibility, guilt, loyalty. I am sure I have used all of these as points in sermons in the past, particularly as I have tried to move people from giving solely out of a sense of duty to giving from a heart of compassion and love.

It is exciting to see people move from “have to” giving to “want to” giving. But as one who has been a part of the institutional church for over three decades, it is also easy for me to get on my high horse and talk about our obligation to give and support the local church that nourishes and feeds us. In my house and my church, duty remains a good word.

However, when those in the fundraising world talk about why people give, they really don’t get into guilt or obligation or love. They list these two reasons—people give to people and people give to a vision.*

People give to people. Despite what you may think, people don’t give to places or things. They give to people. My mentor, Jimmy Moffett, had a hit list of guys he would approach when he needed some extra money to help out a family at church or tend to some other need. He would call up his “posse” and tell them how much he needed. Sometimes he would tell them what it was about and other times due to confidentiality issues, he would not. The men always responded. They were giving to a person they believed in. They were glad to do it. In fact they felt honored to be asked.

This is why it is important in a campaign to choose the right person for Campaign Director and Early Commitment leader. It really does matter who is making “the ask.” Choose the right person and the chances of success go up. Choose the wrong person—well you know the answer here.

People give to a vision. People want to make the world a better place. They want to make a difference. They want to change lives. Visions of changing the world excite people. A building, however, is not a vision. It is a structure made of inanimate bricks and mortar. What are you going to do with the building is the question? Likewise, retiring debt is not a vision? It may be a sound financial decision but it is not visionary. What are you going to do with the money you save when you are out of debt? This is a vision question.

When you decide what your vision is, you must finally ask, “Is this vision worthy of financial sacrifice and hard work?” If the answer is no, you are not ready to ask people to give.

People give to people and people give to a compelling vision.