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UVA Study IDs People Most Likely to Donate


Many business schools are focused on the question of how to make greater profits, but at the University of Virginia two business schools have teamed up to help non-profits increase their revenues. 

They discovered that people who are financially rich but socially and spiritually poor are less likely to give than those who have strong ties to family and community.

In 1984, Brian Rogers graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA, and today he sits on the board of a non-profit that helps bring clean water to communities that need it.  He wanted to better understand how donors think, so he asked a faculty member at McIntire – Jeff Boichuk – to study the question.  Boichuk and a colleague at the Darden School of Business, Lalin Anik, created a survey – asking about 21-hundred people.

“Considering all of the resources that you have in your life – emotional, material, mental, physical, relational, spiritual, temporal (how much time we have) – please indicate how abundant you feel on a scale of one to seven.”

Those who felt their lives were a 7 – rich in relationships with other people and strongly spiritual – were the most likely to make charitable contributions.  For non-profits, Anik says, the message is clear.

“If a non-profit gets to know me, gets to know my family, gets to know the things that are valuable to me, then I will be more willing to give in the longer term.  It’s actually not rocket science.  It’s building relationships with your potential donors.”

“The challenge is to create this sense of community and higher purpose in your potential donors much in advance of looking to raise money and not targeting those who have the highest material wealth and then just hoping that getting meetings with them will lead to higher donations.”

And by getting donors together, Boichuk says, non-profits may encourage future support.

“To continue to be part of that in group, part of the deal is that you donate and that you support the cause.”

There is, he adds, just one exception. People getting ready to retire tend to hoard their money.  After retirement, however, they are much more likely to give.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief