The 3 Reasons People Give Transformational Gifts that You Must Understand


Transformational gifts may be large and complex, but the underlying reasons that donors give are not. Understanding the three primary motivators that donors give transformational gifts is critical for you to cultivate more of these gifts to drive your mission forward.Too often we find that giving is made up of smaller gifts that are given as a “tip” or an obligatory gift where the donor feels like they have to give. The donor feels like giving is just the right thing to do.

But the real transformational gifts that can change your organization are driven by three primary motivations.

These three reasons for giving will vary in a person throughout the different stages of their life. For example, an individual who’s approaching the twilight years of their life will have a different reason for giving then the 30-year-old tech mogul.

As the seasons of life change, so to the reasons for giving change.

But even though these reasons can change throughout a person’s lifetime, they almost always give based on one of three simple motivations. Get to know these motivations well and learn how to identify them in your potential donors so that you can better show them how your organization or ministry can serve their reason for giving.

Giving Motivator #1: Family

Top of the list is family. The main reason that people give transformational gifts is that they want to provide for the needs of their family as well as use their gift to promote the growth of their values within the lives of their family members.

Donors want their spouses and children to have the financial means they need to buy a home, go to college, or start a business. Providing for the physical needs of the family after death is an easy motivator to understand. But this is just the beginning of how a donor wishes to use their transformational gift to bless their family.

Donors are motivated to bless their family by using a transformational gift, like an asset-based gift, to instill their values in the lives of their children.

Especially with estate planning, donors have the unique chance to create financial and legal environments that help develop and grow noble or virtuous attributes in the lives of their heirs.

The astute donor will want their inheritance to launch their children, not endow them.

The astute donor will want their inheritance to launch their children, not endow them. Share on X

Some want their holdings to inspire their children to be givers. Others wish to inspire their heirs to be involved in their communities and churches, to be good citizens.

Family Concerns

Conversely, many high net worth individuals are concerned that the inheritance they leave will turn their children into “trust babies” or destroy their kids.

Unfortunately, most financial services professionals are more concerned about transferring the wealth of the individual instead of the motivations of the wealth giver—and they miss out on the opportunity to pass on the values of the donor to their children through a transformational gift.

When communicating with donors, make sure you communicate how giving a transformational gift can help them instill their values in the generations of their family to come and avoid the destruction that can come through the weight of sudden wealth.

Giving Motivator #2: Taxes

Sometimes people are philanthropic simply because they don’t want to give more money to the government. They’ve given so much to local, state, and federal governments in their lifetime that the idea to give more through their estate simply disgusts them.

Tax avoidance is a common motivator for people on both sides of the political aisle. Both right and left-leaning people would like to see their hard-earned money go to the causes they care about the most.

Now, this isn’t the most altruistic reason out of the three, but tax avoidance is really a wonderful driver for transformational gifts. Here’s why:

The United States of America has the most charitable tax system in the world by design. It is designed to motivate people to generosity. This feature is unique to our governmental and economic structure. For all the things we wish they’d do better, Congress has purposefully rigged the system to promote generosity to charitable causes—and that’s a blessing that we should never take for granted.

Because of these charitable tax incentives, many of the taxes we face are, in effect, optional. This means you and your donors can opt out of these taxes—especially capital gains taxes and estate taxes—with an act of charity.

So I encourage you to leverage the perhaps selfish motivator to avoid taxes for its intended purpose—to promote transformational giving! Take full advantage of this tremendous blessing and give thanks that we live in a country that values philanthropy as much as you and I do.

Giving Motivator #3: Impact

Impact is a powerful motivator that you don’t want to miss communicating to your donors… like this Californian businessman.

One day in a conference room overlooking Monterey Bay, I was talking about these three common gift motivators with a man who owned a string of businesses on the West Coast from Washington to Southern California. When I got to “Impact,” the guy reached across the table suddenly and grabbed my arm.

“Greg, that’s what I want to talk about!”

He continued. “I don’t need any more money. What I want to know is… how can God use my life to make a difference in the world?”

The desire to make an impact with his God-given resources was his driver, his motivation.

He was blessed. He had a charmed life. And he was so grateful for his blessings that he wanted to leave the world better off when he left it than when he lived.

How can God use my life to make this world better?

This is a strong motivation lying deep in the hearts of your donors, whether you’re shepherding a small church or leading an international nonprofit organization.

There are all kinds of ways for people to make a significant impact through an asset-based gift or estate gift—and you can pivot off of this strong desire to do good to connect with what your donors are looking for through you.

Your donors want to leave a mark—and if you’re sensitive to detect this beautiful motivator inside them, you’ll be able to cultivate more transformational gifts for your ministry or organization.

Need some help identifying and pivoting on these motivations to inspire transformational giving in your organization? Let’s talk!