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What Maslow's Needs Tells You About School Fundraising

By Clay Boggess on Feb 27, 2021
What Maslow's Needs Tells You About School Fundraising

Discover what really motivates people to give

In the non-profit world, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a theory on human motivation) is often referenced when thinking about philanthropy, or why people give. So, how does his theory apply to your school fundraising efforts?

Isn’t raising money for a school as simple as selling some awesome products? Possibly. Then again, maybe not.

Don’t get us wrong, we have plenty of great products and prize programs you can jump to right now, if you want. But let’s go a step further. Consider that understanding what motivates people to give could help expand your fundraising efforts.

Maslow and his hierarchy

So, who’s this Maslow guy and what’s his Hierarchy of Needs all about?

Abraham Maslow was born in 1908 to Russian Immigrant parents. The oldest of seven children, he often felt lonely and spent much of his time reading and studying the world around him.

An interest in psychology set him on the path to develop his theories about human behavior. Unlike the more popular psychologists and behaviorists at the time–– who concentrated on the negative aspects of life––Maslow focused on how a person could take full advantage of their creativity and full potential.

The theory.

Maslow’s theory is represented by a pyramid. It categorizes the needs that motivate a person to act. The theory is that each level of needs must be met before a person can focus on the next level. For example, a person’s Physiological, or basic needs for food, shelter and sleep must be satisfied before they can focus on Safety. Once those levels are fulfilled, the person can focus on Love and Belonging, and Esteem. At the top of the pyramid is Self-actualization, which Maslow believed is the greatest individual human ideal.

School fundraising programs demand a variety of skills

Self-actualization can be described as:


  1. the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.

So, how does this apply to your fundraising ideas and efforts?

By that definition, people who are self-actualized are interested in personal growth and fulfilling their potential. Along the way to reaching this ideal are the states of Love and Belonging and Esteem. And remember, those must be met before attaining self-realization.

So, here’s the connection: giving of time and resources fulfills the needs found in all three levels at the top of Maslow’s pyramid. A better understanding of how his hierarchy affects philanthropy can expand your fundraising efforts.

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