Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Executive Summary

The Indianapolis Zoo, located in the heart of Indianapolis, is a staple of the community. Celebrating its 50th year anniversary in 2014, the Indianapolis Zoo is known worldwide for both its excellence in animal care and its dedication to local and international conservation efforts. The intent of this paper is to provide the Indianapolis Zoo Institutional Advancement Department with an in depth analysis of its 2014 Donor Survey. Understanding the factors that can affect donor motivation to give philanthropically and the correlation these factors may have with gift amount will help the development team hone their soliciting practices.

It is the job of a successful nonprofit to find individuals who are willing to donate both their time and money to the organization. However, attempting to decipher what makes a person give philanthropically and, ultimately, how these motivations affect total donation amounts is no easy task. Existing literature suggests that a donor’s trust and emotional commitment to an organization will positively affect his or her willingness to give, and that a positive attitude toward a charitable organization is correlated with larger gift giving. This paper looks at similar intrinsic and extrinsic factors, as indicated on the Indianapolis Zoo Donor Survey, and how they correlate with reported donation amounts.

To determine the relationship between donor motivation and donation amount, I created a dataset of approximate annual donation amounts and factors affecting donor motivation from the survey responses collected by the zoo from its 2014 Donor Survey. Next, I created a model and performed a multiple linear regression analysis which estimated the effects of the various factors on donation amounts. The analysis found six significant explanatory variables: my gift makes a difference, giving to an efficient organization, giving back to the community, I am part of the organization, gender, and age. Four of these variables were found to be positively statistically significant, increasing donation amounts. Gender and giving back to the community were found to be negatively statistically significant, causing a decrease in average donation amounts.

Based on the multiple regression results, I recommend that the Indianapolis Zoo continue to promote the organization’ s high level of efficiency. As this factor had a statistically significant positive impact on donor motivation, it only makes sense that the zoo use this to its advantage. Additionally, I would recommend that the zoo continue to recruit dedicated volunteers and target those who are a part of the organization for large philanthropic gifts. My results indicate that this is the most significant factor in terms of increased donation amount.



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