Any non-profit organization needs money to function and fulfill its objectives. These organizations’ main sources of capital are either donations or investments.
Knowing the key differences between donors and investors is critical in helping non-profits understand which sources they should turn to when they need funding.
Who Are Donors?
Donors can be individuals, foundations, or corporations who donate to charities and/or NPOs.
These donations are usually either monetary or physical items like clothing, food, medicine, or anything else the NPO might need.
Donors are often philanthropists that are passionate about a certain cause and want to contribute toward the efforts of the non-profit organization they’re donating to. These donations are sometimes continuous, and philanthropists often become advocates for the cause.
The theory and practice in social work suggest that donors usually give out of altruism, and there is no expectation for the money to be returned in any form.
Who Are Investors?
Investors are usually private institutes that invest their money in an NPO. Banks, angel investors, venture capitalists, or private equity firms, could be potential investors.
Unlike donors, they are not driven by philanthropy but instead take on a more business-minded approach.
They usually offer loans and physical or digital investments to the non-profit organization with the expectation of getting something in return—which is basically a financial benefit for their investment.
This could be in the form of a percentage of the profits, equity, or debt repayment.
Key Differences Between Donors and Investors
Several key differences between donors and investors set them apart when it comes to non-profit organizations. They include:
Motive Donors are typically motivated by altruism, wanting to positively impact the world and give back. They usually don’t expect anything greater in return than knowing they are making a difference and helping those in need.
However, an investor’s motives are different. They typically invest for the potential return on their investment or to gain some form of financial return.
The ROI could involve tax breaks, dividends, or other financial incentives, while financial returns could be related to increased revenue or reduced costs.
Donors don’t usually think about long-term results. Their only concern is helping with the current needs of the organization they’re donating to.
They may be looking to support a specific project or cause and may not have the same commitment level as an investor.
Investors, on the other hand, want to see long term-results and expect an ROI for their contribution.
And, because they have future goals in mind, they’re likely more interested in seeing how their money is used during the investment period.
The risk potential for donors is generally low. Giving to an NPO or charity is a safe bet and is seen as a noble cause.
Because their donation is usually a once-off, they don’t weigh the risks of giving. Donors focus on making a difference in someone’s life, not the potential monetary loss they may experience.
In contrast, investors tend to be more risk-averse and may look for signs that the organization can deliver returns or reduce costs before investing their money. They will consider factors such as financial stability, management competency, and the organization’s ability to meet its goals and objectives.
In addition, they’ll want to understand the organization’s legal and regulatory environment in order to minimize their potential risk. This may involve evaluating the organization’s financials, strategic plans, and processes.
Amount of Investment
Donors usually give one-time donations or smaller, recurring donations. They are often looking to provide immediate relief or assistance.
For instance, a donor might give a small donation to purchase supplies for a local homeless shelter.
But, investors are more likely to be focused on long-term investments and provide a larger sum. They might also expect something in return for the investment.
For instance, an investor might provide a generous sum to an NPO in exchange for a stake in the organization.
Amount of Control
Donors aren’t much interested in having control over how their funds are used. They may be happy to provide a gift and let the nonprofit organization use it as they see fit.
Some may even request anonymity, which means their donation is completely voluntary and without any expectation of control.
But, investors might want to be consulted before those funds are used.
They engage in a much more hands-on approach and may expect regular updates about the progress of their investment.
Investors may have stipulations in place if they feel the organization is not following through on its commitments or promises.
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