wrong giftI’ve experienced it many times. So have you. A well-meaning person in our lives comes to us with a lot of energy and excitement about the wonderful thing they’ve acquired for us. They hand it to us – it might be wrapped or in a bag – and they wait, excitedly, to see our reaction. This whole ritual puts you in a difficult situation. How do you react if you don’t like it? It’s a difficult thing.
There’s no doubt that the person really did mean to do the right thing, but that tie, that blouse, that gadget or book, those dishes or whatever it is – it just isn’t right. So you meekly smile and nod your head and mumble something like: “That was so thoughtful of you. Thank you very much.”
This is a recurring experience in homes and workplaces around the world. As I’ve thought about why this is happening, I’ve concluded that the gift-giver (although driven by obligation, kindness or love) hasn’t done the homework necessary to figure out what the recipient of the gift would really like.
I wonder why this is true? Does it take too much time to do the research? Does it feel intrusive to simply ask the person what kind of items or experiences they like? Or, is the research and asking an admission that we really don’t know the person – almost like we’re pretending to know them and it’s embarrassing to admit it. There could be multiple reasons why we don’t take the steps to be right on point in our gift giving.
Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that sometimes we give the wrong gift to someone we claim is a friend, or a person dear to us.
This is exactly what happens in the philanthropic world. MGOs present projects, programs and donor offers that have very little to do with their donors’ interests and passions. Many times they have nothing to do with them at all! (Tweet it!)
We see this happen way too often. And here’s the surprising thing – seriously, I do NOT understand this one – then, the MGO says something like: “I know DONOR NAME can give so much more. How do I get them to do that?” And I say: “What was the last thing you presented to them?” They show me. And I ask: “Are they interested in that?” Answer: “I don’t know. I know they love what we do.”
And there’s the explanation for why things aren’t going well in the relationship. The MGO is giving the donor a gift they don’t want. I call it a gift because it IS an opportunity for the donor to do good. But the donor doesn’t want it.
This is a serious problem in philanthropy, especially in mid-level, major and planned giving today. It’s serious. And it’s the major reason donors are giving less and aren’t as engaged as they should be.
So stop right now and examine what you’re doing with every donor on your caseload. Are you giving them good gifts or bad ones? You know what I mean. Stop giving your donors the wrong gifts. Stop doing it not only because it violates them as people, but also because it prevents them from doing all the good they want to do.