It's important to understand donor motivations because those motivations are the keys to recognizing donors effectively. Individuals give because they feel a strong affinity to a NPS park or program. They feel that NPS is doing valuable work and doing it well and they want to help support and play a part in it.
Often it's the professionalism and dedication of staff and volunteers working for the NPS who inspire people to give. Giving can result from donors attending outstanding interpretive programs or research programs.
Through giving, individuals publicly demonstrate their values and principles. Through their gifts, they make public statements about what is specifically meaningful to them and worth supporting. Giving principles of parents are often passed on to their children.
For the more than a dozen individual donors who gave $50,000 or more to Yellowstone National Park, the motivation for giving was not based on seeing their name on a plaque or a wall, says Diane Chalfant, former Chief of Interpretation at Yellowstone. Rather, most were strongly focused on the park, its mission and aligning themselves with that mission: Those factors were core to who they are or who they aspire to be.
Another motivating factor is the impact of the gift - the difference it will make and how many people will be affected by the gift. Donors are interested in the social benefit of the gift. Some donors see it as their civic duty to participate. They want to know all about the park, NPS and what we are trying to do to achieve our mission.
Some individuals give to enhance their social status. They like to be acknowledged as influential players and contributors making a positive difference in their community.
Also remember that some people prefer to, or will only, give anonymously for a variety of reasons, including not wanting other people to solicit them for gifts. Their request must be respected. One NPS unit has been the beneficiary of $20 million in cash contributions from a very generous, effective donor who insisted on complete anonymity.