Most people want to donate to charities. In general, humanity is generous, but the problem is that intentions rarely match actions. 

While Americans give an average of just 3% of their income to nonprofits each year, they believe that they should give 6%. This translates into a $250 billion “giving gap” in the U.S. every year. 

Needless to say, there’s a lot of potential for closing this gap, but the key is not to underestimate an individual’s willingness to give. 

Increasingly, research reveals that giving has a positive impact on happiness, so how can you capitalize on this and help people give as much as they intend (want) to? By paying attention to the intention to give and helping your supporters donate their time and money.


Close the “Intention to Give” Gap by Removing Barriers to Giving

 Let’s talk about how you can close the “intention to give” gap by delving into the most common barriers to giving and outlining a solution for each.


1. Forgetfulness

Humans are forgetful. We might intend to go to the store, call a friend, donate our time and money, but it’s easy to lose track of things. More often than not, we get caught up in urgent tasks and push everything else to another time when we’re not dealing with strict deadlines. This is especially the case for charitable donations.

There’s a reason why donations always increase at the end of the year. Suddenly, there’s a hard deadline for tax exemption reasons, and donations are prioritized. But, at almost every other time of the year, giving is not as high of a priority, which means it’s often forgotten. 

Solution: Remind your supporters to give regularly and reduce the friction to giving.

To overcome forgetfulness, keep your organization at the forefront of your supporters’ minds with consistent marketing. For example, you can send out regularly scheduled emails with updates on donations, outcomes, and events. Use these as gentle reminders of who you are and how you impact the world for good.



It’s also a good idea to add urgency to giving with deadlines, limited-time matching donation promotions, or gifts for the first X number of donations. By creating a timeframe for giving, you turn it into an act that cannot wait. As a priority, it’s more likely to happen.

Just be sure to send out these “urgent” promotions when your supporters are most likely to have the time and energy to respond. For example, you can send emails over lunch, on weekends, or after-work hours, so your charity does not have to compete with more urgent tasks or work.


2. Too Many Choices

In a famous study by Columbia University, researchers set out jams for customers to sample. Every few hours, they would switch from 24 jams to just six jams. When there were 24 jams, 60% of customers got a sample, but only 3% bought a jar. When there are only six jams, only 40% of customers would get a sample, but 30% bought a jar.

Basically, more options will attract more customers who want to browse. But if you want someone to buy, you have to give them fewer choices.



Choice overload is alive and well in the charitable giving industry. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits, serving a wide range of needs. This can make it incredibly difficult for supporters to choose who gets their money.

Solution: Give your supporters reasons to choose your charity and make giving hassle-free.

 To help potential donors choose your organization, tell them exactly what they get when they donate to your cause. Be upfront with data and statistics about how much of each dollar goes toward your mission and how effective a donation can be. Sites such as GiveWell, which ranks effective charities, can help with this—galvanizing supporters to action.

 At the same time, you need to make giving to your organization as hassle-free and simple as possible. Don’t offer your supporters endless ways to give. Instead, limit their options to what’s most important.

For example, with Humanitru, you can create donation pages with one-click giving options and simple choices. Donors choose how often they want to give: Once, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly. Then, they choose how much to give: $100, $50, $25, $10, or Other.

 It’s simple, effective, and cuts down on choice overload.


3. Complicated Donations

If something is difficult or takes a lot of time and energy to complete, most people won’t bother or may give up halfway through the process. The problem is that many organizations seem to think this doesn’t apply to the giving process. But donations need to be easy, automatic, and simple.

If giving, volunteering, or attending an event requires multiple links, webpages, and too much information, it won’t be worth the effort for most people.

Solution: Reduce the friction of giving, making it easier to donate one-time and regularly.

 As we explained above, it’s essential to make giving as hassle-free as possible. It should be a streamlined and mobile-friendly experience that offers as close to a one-click donation experience as possible. The donation landing page should flow seamlessly with options for the donor to choose how much they want to give and how often.



Recurring giving options are essential to make donating easy. If supporters can sign up to automatically give every week, month, or year, you drastically reduce their friction to giving. They don’t even have to think about making another donation; it’s directly debited from their checking account or credit card as requested.

And for in-person giving, consider reducing donor friction by offering contactless payments, such as Text to Give payment processes or QR codes. With Totem, each donation landing page comes with a built-in QR code that takes donors directly to where you can make a payment. It’s completely mobile-optimized and 100% user-friendly, making it more likely your supporters will use it.


4. Perceived Norms

People might want to give to your charity, but they may not be sure how their behavior and its outcomes will impact them. They want to help and do good, but they may fear that people will either approve or disapprove of their giving. Not only do supporters want to give to charities that are viewed well, but they want to be able to match up to perceived norms in terms of how much they give.

Solution: Make giving emotional by evoking a response to a specific, tangible need.

While 85% of donors say they pay attention to performance when giving to a specific nonprofit, only 9% claim to actually give based on the relative performance of charities. So, although effectiveness matters, the key to unlocking giving is to tap into your supporters’ generosity and to make their giving more purposeful by aligning with their intentions.

In fact, research has shown that the average donor gives twice as much to charities that tap into their emotions. The key is to prompt your donors to reflect on their giving decisions, and broader giving habits, so that their giving is more personally rewarding.

One way to do this is to create a sense of normalcy for giving. Your supporters will be more confident in their choice if they feel there is a regular and immediate need being met by their generosity. You can also use matching gifts to highlight the social norm around specific giving amounts and to prompt donors to hit a certain giving goal.

In this way, you prompt your donors to overcome any bottleneck that might hold their generosity back and instead unlock their full charitable intentions. They’ll realize that their generous ideas are not outliers and that they can put money toward what they care about most.


5. Lack of Insight into Impact

It’s hard to know what motivates people to give, but we do know that a lack of information is a surefire way to keep people from giving. Donors want to know that their money is going toward a worthy cause—the right worthy cause—and that how that money is being used fits the scope of the charity. They want to understand the results of their giving before they’ll donate or continue to donate.

Solution: Demonstrate the impact of your charitable dollars by making it easy for donors to track and measure the results of their donation.

One simple way to demonstrate impact is to provide a “year-end-review” about your charity, how much it received, and how much of an impact it had. This is an opportunity for your organization to match your donors’ actions to results. Not only does it provide a clearer sense of how donations were used, but it also elicits an emotional response from donors by showing how their giving made things better.



Another way to signal impact is to provide approval from experts for your charity. If a trusted philanthropist or foundation validates your work and how you use donor funds, that can help engage additional donors. They’ll see your organization as one that leads to real impact, which will foster more thoughtful and actionable giving.

Ultimately, you have to find a way to help your donors feel more confident about their decision to give to your charity. That’s why it’s important to reward donors with positive feelings after their giving as soon as possible. Immediately after a gift:

  • Send an email with a video or photos of people benefiting their aid.
  • Say thank you and give a statistic of how much they helped.
  • Provide an estimate of how much the donor saved on taxes with their gift.


Make Doing Good Intentional

The first step to closing the gap between intention and actual giving is to recognize that it exists. Once you know it’s there, you can take the necessary steps within your organization to overcome those barriers to giving that are holding your supporters back.



With over 20 years experience in traditional and digital marketing, Beth Brown has spent the bulk of those serving the nonprofit sector. Organizations and institutions that have relied on her strategy and skills include ChildFund International, Creighton University, University of North Dakota, Virginia Community College System, and the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.

Beth Brown

Nonprofit Marketing Specialist

Humanitru clients experience an average active donor growth of 69%

See how we can help you reach those who support your mission and grow your revenue today!