Unconventional Look at Fundraising

The GIVE (Part III)

In Cultivation, Donor Cultivation, Donor Development, Donor Relationship, Fundraising, GIVE, Giving in Russia, Giving Pledge, Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, Philanthropy, relationship-based fudraising, The Giving Pledge on February 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Our third installment in the area of Donor Development on why donors GIVE takes us to a more emotional place this time.  As you will see in this installment, we are dealing with issues often associated with the soul, with emotions, and will require us to take a closer look at elements we typically don’t pay too much attention to.  You may need to put on your psychology hat or a pair of special glasses to look through – you will need them.

Our first GIVE is reminiscent of a major donor I have been working with.  Quiet, low-key, talking less and often last; this is how I would describe him.  In meetings, one needs to wait for the right time for him to speak… and yet – take him out in the field to meetings about his family philanthropy, and he becomes a very different person.  Something in his involvement in Philanthropy gets him to assume a very different Ego and Self Esteem.  Without sinking too deep and going too far into the psychology of ego and self esteem, I do want you to delve (a bit) into the notion that so many of us grow up with “issues” and differences in how our self esteem has evolved.  There is nothing wrong with embracing it — which impacts directly on how we see ourselves – hence, our ego. But here in the world of Healing the World, in the world of Philanthropy, we deal with a more clean slate.  Think about this further and please follow along with me a bit.  You are almost “born again” in Philanthropy, not carrying your pains and suffering… you can start all over again and can feel good about yourself.  And that, my friends, makes GIVING a very attractive business and makes this reason (Ego and Self Esteem) one of the most important reasons why people give.  Do you now see the connection between giving and “feeling good” in a different way?!  Do you now understand what this feeds into…?

I am going to leave you here with your thoughts on this GIVE. There is much more to be said on this, but there are also other reasons why donors GIVE and I want you to move forward with me. 

Moving onward to our next GIVE… which has to do with the one thing that we cannot acquire (or can we?): Our Quest for Immortality.   Reading this, depending on where you are in “life” you may smile and know that this has crossed your mind, one way or another.  For example: “How do I leave my mark?”  YES – this is also seeking immortality… what did you think leaving your “mark” meant?! :- ))  Once we start asking these kind of questions we are in this beautiful (and if I may say – legitimate) search.  And then we understand what motivates people who search for projects that will carry them (and others connected to them…such as their relatives) beyond the life that their physical ability cannot but their philanthropy can.

I am reminded of a donor to the Pittsburgh Federation who is an ongoing contributor to our annual campaign.  A good and wonderful person.  Solid guy.  One day, he showed up unannounced, and asked our CEO if there is a building that needs to be named.  He was looking for a building that he could put his family name on.  Nothing “funny” about this. He woke up one morning and realized  there is this “mortality thing” and for him it meant a building.  We have a few beautiful programs with his family name which do wonders.  And now with the building name, the mortality issue is resolved.

I want to pause for a minute here and make sure you are correctly reading our look into the insight of the psychology of giving.  This is about understanding what motivates people, like you and me, to give.  This is NOT about going to major donors and asking them if they want to kick up their self-esteem or if they are looking for some immortality.  I assume it is clear here that the ability to read through our own sensitivities does not mean starting to turn this into a small ‘talk” tomorrow. (Thank you!)

Getting back to the GIVEs… here is one more powerful GIVE.  Last night, I participated with two of the donors I work with in an international video conference taking place between their project from Moscow (the Russian Federation one) and Florida (the US one).  While only five minutes into the live video conference, I found myself crying.  I could not avoid it.  The content was so touching and meaningful that it simply hit places deep – deep inside of me.  Some time later, I noticed that the voices of the donors were sounding as if they could hardly speak and were with tears in their eyes.  Sitting in Moscow and seeing the major donors I am working with in Florida, I saw the profound power of Emotional Response which philanthropy has, which I have witnessed numerous times firsthand.  This is not something which, as demonstrated in this example, works only on donors.  It works on us professionals as well.  Years ago, one of the donors I work with shared with me and openly explained  that I would be surprised to hear how rare it is for him to find this kind of emotional response in other aspects of work and in — however it matters – life in general.  I was surprised.  I thought he was sharing something very painful with me.  But the truth is he was simply sharing with me a very important insight about the essential value of philanthropy –value I was too “young” to comprehend then.

I am still surprised as I continue to discover the profound impact of the Emotional Response philanthropy has on donors.  I do not think that most of us realize that it is unique to our work in philanthropy, but it is, and therefore makes our work special.  But wait… this is if you aim and design the work you do to include these kinds of emotional responses.  Take the time to think about this remark, otherwise the door I just opened for you will lead you to little or no results.  Some of my best friends think that there is no need for this…they would argue that this is an indulge.  Good luck to them and you make your choice.

And again onward we go to the next GIVE, as there is so much more to cover.  As we move forward in life, we often tend to recognize those to whom we feel obligated.  This is the case of the next GIVE.   In Memoriam is about recognizing and honoring those we want to honor.  Having attended quite a few ceremonies in memoriam, they tend to have a special effect which really minimizes the role of those who are recognizing and maximizes the role of those who have passed.  And most often I am impressed by the genuine care to leave a legacy through a philanthropic deed by those who act.  How we approach people who are here, to think of making a difference by leaving a legacy in memoriam of those who died, is where we can be very creative.  Not everyone is thinking about their…   Read this and yes, ask yourself the question I hope you are thinking.

I am going to end this third installment (of four) about GIVEs with two GIVEs that are “siblings”. I am going to introduce them together, although I would like you to be able to see them as independent – which they truly are.

The first of the siblings is Vested Interest in an Organization.  This is when a donor has an earnest interest in an organization.  What kind of interest, you could ask.  Well… it could be that the organization is his or her Alma Mater and therefore the donor is interested in seeing the university continue developing and enriching the next generation of students.  The interest could be that the organization medically treated a family member of the donor and the donor wants to make a difference in the lives of other future patients, so that other lives are also saved.  The interest could be that the donor knows someone who works in the organization and trusts that person.  And so on and so on.  I could show you how the word INTEREST can change shape and form or how it can range from effects that you feel are all-good to sometimes saying oh-well, but all in all, keep in mind this is about a donor making a difference in an organization and they have all the reason to make their choice as they see fit.  The question that you should ask yourself is if your organization is included in the list above… (Get over it and just do something about this…)

The sibling of the previous GIVE is Identifying with the Cause.  This is a straightforward GIVE.  I don’t have to go far to explain this one.  Take the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Changing the world in such a significant way.  Do you know in what way?! In giving children immunization shots!  Or the Oprah Winfrey Philanthropy, which is about… a girl’s leadership academy in Africa.  These and so many others have a specific philanthropic cause.  They have developed something which is theirs.  I have had the privilege to work with a few donors who have made a journey like this.  Developing an idea of their own and taking a philanthropic journey which then turns into their cause. Some donors love going this way.  This is a hard and unique way to go, but recently more and more donors are going this way.  It is often called “venture philanthropy” and it often attracts the younger generation of donors, although in my experience I have had the opportunity in Pittsburgh to work with both generations and see how it can fit both.  I have also seen how this works amazingly for the newer generations of donors in Russia, and this becomes their new way into philanthropy – but this for another blog.

What is so interesting in this Identifying with the Cause approach to philanthropy, which drives the philanthropic passion of some donors and feeds into their giving, is that in return for this specific cause (for making a difference!) becomes part of the “skin” of the donors.  The cause becomes the donor!  Or in other words, not only that the name Bill Gates is synonymous with Microsoft, but because of the work of Melinda Gates (who leads the foundation), so does Bill Gates develop into one in the same with global childhood immunization.  Think about this.


Michael Steiner


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