keylockpuzzle 2013-Oct21
A news piece on a new poll by U.S. Trust and Phoenix Marketing gives us interesting insights into the giving of the wealthy and clues on how to unlock their giving to your organization.  Take a look.
There are three reasons coming out of that poll that we at Veritus believe every MGO should pay attention to.  They are:

  1. Fear that their gift will not be used wisely.
  2. Lack of knowledge or connection to a charity.
  3. Fear of increased requests from others.

Earlier this year I wrote a post on why the rich don’t give to charity.  In that post we considered the fact that one of the reasons the wealthy don’t give as much of their resources to charity is because they are not as exposed to the needs, or at least not made as aware of them as are the non-wealthy.  Take a look at that post and the article in Atlantic Monthly that explores the topic.
And then add to the above list this fourth reason:

4.  Since wealthy people are not close to or aware of the need, they therefore do not understand it or connect with it easily.

Here’s why this list is important to you as an MGO and what you should do about it.
You have donors on your caseload who have a great deal of capacity.  If you have qualified 150 donors, I would say, on average, that 5 to 10 of them could give a substantial gift to your organization.  But they aren’t doing that for several reasons:

  1. They don’t know you.  This is a classic information vacuum problem.  You could deliver more information to them through mailings, e-mails, etc., although this may be more difficult as they may choose not to read this material.  It would be more effective to invite them to a private briefing, which is designed to give information about what you are doing.  This briefing has no ask in it. It is simply a meeting with your top executive and possibly a program person to hear “what the leading causes of hunger (insert your issue) are and what we are doing about it.”  You might ask a friend of the to donor invite the individual to this type of “by invitation only” event.  The donor could be assured, by the invitation process, that there will be no fundraising at this event.  Properly designed, and using peers to invite them, this is a good way to increase knowledge. Or, if the donor belongs to the local Rotary or Kiwanis Club or some other type of gathering, you could offer help in the way of programming (as a speaker) and thereby give the donor information in this way.  The point is, you need to find a way to give the donor non-asking information.  A sub-point of this information objective is to take the donor to the need. Go to this link for more information on how to do this.
  2. You haven’t asked them to.  Not surprising, the leading reason people don’t give is that they haven’t been asked.  Following right behind that, a related reason is that they haven’t been asked enough.  Jeff and I regularly talk with MGOs who continue to ask the $5,000 and $10,000 donor to give again at the same level.  When we ask why they do this, the MGO usually gives one of two reasons:  (a) “I just don’t feel comfortable asking for more,” or (b) “I don’t think they will actually do it.”  Well, think about this.  The block in both of these cases is with the MGO, not the donor.  It’s a story in the MGO’s head.  When we can successfully get the MGO to be bold and courageous – and ask for something that has vision and matches the donor’s interests and passions – it is not surprising that the donor actually does it!  Try it.
  3. The donors privately don’t trust the organization to handle their gift.  So, the way to deal with this is to just put it on the table.  Here is how I would do it.  At an appropriate time in a conversation, say something like,  “George, one thing we hear as a reason why some donors do not give to organizations like ours is that the donor does not have confidence the organization will use the money wisely.  What could we specifically do to assure you that what you value in your giving to us is protected and delivered to you in a consistent manner?  What would we need to do and what information do you need that would give you confidence that your gift is handled the way you want it to be handled?”   There is nothing like just getting things right out front and talking about it.  I guarantee you will learn a great deal by asking this question.  AND, it will build confidence and trust with the donor. However, this comes with a warning:  once the donor tells you this information, you will need to deliver.  I know you know that!  But I would take what the donor says, check it out with the gatekeepers in the organization, and then go back to the donor and make promises you can keep.
  4. The donor is afraid he or she will get bombarded with asks from others.  The simple solution to this fear has two parts:  (a) like #3 above, you need to bring it out in the open and say, “George, some donors have expressed a fear that if they give they will be smothered with other requests from other organizations or even be asked repeatedly by our organization.  Is that something you are concerned about?”  If the donor says he is concerned, ask him what he would like you to do to assure his fears do not become reality.  Then, having identified those items, take steps to make sure it happens.

When you look at it objectively, the key to unlocking the giving of the wealthy to your organization is really not much different than what you would do with the “regular” donors on your caseload. They require the same information, respect, privacy and caring as anyone.  And, in our experience, they all have the same fears.  The only difference may be in your head, i.e., believing that the wealthy are different and therefore not taking the steps you need to take to deal with them.
As Jeff and I have pondered this topic over the last few years, our conclusion is that the most difficult reason, out of all the reasons stated, as to why the wealthy don’t give as much is this: – getting the wealthy donors close to the need so they can see it, think about it and feel it.  It is relatively easy to deal with the other reasons stated in this post because those are just conversations followed by assurances, whereas taking the donor to the need is a little more complex. This is why I have written about that topic extensively.
So, spend some time during this important giving season to address the fears and concerns of all the donors on your caseload.  And when it comes to the donors who have greater capacity and wealth, pay attention to what I have written here.