Unconventional Look at Fundraising

The GIVE (Part IV)

In Cultivation, Donor Development, Donor Relationship, Fundraising, Giving, Giving Pledge, Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, Philanthropy, relationship-based fundraising on March 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Our last blog on GIVE (yes!… all things do come to an end and conclude) will also include a couple of suggestions which I may have been shy about mentioning in previous blogs. This series of blogs is about giving you a choice within the world of what I titled GIVEs… the reasons people give.  Although many of the reasons here have been taken from the work with major donors, they do relate to any of us.  Simply check them out on yourself, or on any of the people you know and see if this is indeed the case.

Where do we begin the conclusion process?  How about with the 14th GIVE. Our next GIVE is maybe the more puzzling of them all.  One of the donors I work with once answered me when asked why he is contributing to a certain organization “because as you know Michael, I cannot take the money with me up there” while pointing his finger towards the heavens above.  I am not sure if you can read into his answer, but this is what is called in the world of philanthropy Altruism.  Giving because one feels like giving, and not because of any other specific reason. There is nothing funny, strange or wrong about Altruism.  And yes… some of the more significant donors are altruistic.  They give because they want to give.  If you are reading this and feel like saying: there must be more or there is more, and I am sure that had I looked fully at the future I would have found more reasons… then good luck!  While you keep looking, allow me to move forward to the next GIVE and I will catch up with you later… see ya!

Our next GIVE has to do with Compassion.  But wait… don’t get confused. This is not about compassion towards something.  You are going the wrong way.  This is about the people (donors!) who are people who have a very large amount of compassion and want to express it through philanthropy.  NOW you’ve got it :- )  GREAT!  This GIVE is about the people who are the angels among us.  They are compassionate people and share their compassion while giving.  As I write, I know exactly who I am writing about and as you read, I know that you have in front of you people you know who are exactly like that.  Beautiful people who can only be described as one large quantity of kindness walking on our planet.  I have to mention someone here.  Sorry…  I cannot avoid this, although I don’t typically do this in my blogs.  I met her for the first time in the spring of 1999.  She was (I think…) the incoming Chair of the board of the Pittsburgh Federation.  I met with her for an hour.  We talked about the work she was involved in with African-American youth, with Partnership 2000 (in Misgav and Karmiel) and with JDC in Kishniev.  This was first of many meetings to follow with Karen.  I found myself weeping in that meeting.  Her amount of kindness was unlike anything I have seen before and I felt I was meeting an angel.  I have had the privilege of working with and witnessing how compassion makes Karen Shapira be one of the most memorable leaders and donors I have worked with.  I am sure she still makes a difference up there with the angels above.  And others who worked with Karen would likely agree that Karen’s GIVE was indeed the one of compassion.

Our next two GIVEs take us to somewhat practical places.  First is the Value for Money. There are many newer donors in philanthropy who make a difference.  They make a difference and “change the face of the land” in philanthropy in many ways; in how we run our organizations, in how they engage, in how they give and in many more ways. One additional way in which they have added value is looking at philanthropy as a “semi-business”.  They have taught us to look at philanthropy as “venture philanthropy”, and this view has become more and more popular.  Part of this approach is about engaging donors in running projects and enabling donors to feel that philanthropy is also a part of their daily  “business”.  This newly-shaped venture philanthropy provides certain donors with a feeling that philanthropy gives them great value for their money. They see philanthropy as a great investment where the return is as strong as in their other lines of business.  You have to be there in order to see it this way.  Since I have worked with more than one donor who saw things this way, I understand this way of thinking.  I am not saying that I see it this way… but I know what they are saying.  Take my advice… try and see it, don’t try and own it all.  This is not about selling you stocks in companies.  These “companies” are already owned by “others”… the donors.  All I am asking you is to read the paper which reports about the success of these companies!  Got it!?  There are no stocks that you need to buy… they are all owned by the donors J … be loose!

Next and almost last… something of very different nature from the things we talked about in spirit and in practice is our next GIVE.  A feeling of Authority is what this next GIVE is about.  Wait…I think I can guess what you are thinking of.  I want you to expand your perspective.  Look at this from where this can develop.  See this as running an enterprise.  The more you give the more you have an understanding of how things work, who the players are and how to achieve your goals.  The more the donor understands the process, the more the donor feels in authority of the results and of the resources. Authority is not all bad if we are willing to share it.  Ouch… am I stepping on anyone’s toes?!  I certainly know I am…  In any case, if you don’t mind sharing authority, this one is going to bring more donors to your pool.  Unless you already work in a place where to start with, the culture is that authority is part of what donors and leadership have and therefore you will likely progress with less pain!  I don’t know of many places like this.  I have spent the past 11+ years in such a place and therefore sharing authority is a no-brainer.  Naturally, your willingness to share authority does not mean you are going out tomorrow to promote it… this GIVE is slightly more complicated than that.  Your donors need to own it first.

We have reached a milestone. The 18th of the Chai GIVE.  I have chosen to close the list with the basic and yet not the least of them.  Giving is so important to donors because it makes them Feel Good.  Very few things that we do, that combines both emotions and our intelligence give us so much satisfaction.  That other thing, if you’ll excuse me for not getting into a comparison, as adored as it is, has way less I.Q. in it.  The JOY of Philanthropy is how we end this list of 18 GIVEs. The 18 jewels in the crown of why people do so much good across the world.  The joy that it gives to them is second to none.  Watching them closely is what I have done for over 15 years in 3 countries on 3 continents.  I have heard them speak in at least three languages about this joy.  And the one thing that comes across is that they LOVE it.  Nothing can be compared to GIVING.  As I have written in one of the other blogs…I have spent more time with major donors than I have with professionals or with organizations. There are many downsides to this – no doubt about that, but I certainly know I can attest to two things: the joy that the people who give receive when the process is done right and consistently, and the abundance of reasons pertaining to why wealthy people give.

I hope that to some extent this serves as a framework for you.  What is missing is now up to you.  In using this, in further expanding this list, please know that I would love to hear back from you as to what you see missing so that the list can be expanded for all.

Please keep giving and help others GIVE.


Michael Steiner



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