- Thu, November 05 2009
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
There is a fascinating discussion going on over at Sean’s Tactical Philanthropy blog about ideas in the book The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon. Yesterday’s post asks us to think about why we give money. Today’s post features a book excerpt. I’ve also been having an interesting discussion on these topics with Eric Foley and plan to blog on that with him in the coming days.
This is a fascinating topic - and one I’ve been contemplating a long time.
I think I (and almost everyone else) give for two reasons: personal and social ROI (a great semantic framing I got from Eric Foley). You give for 1.) how it makes you feel about something you care about or some other form of personal benefit, and 2.) you give to make a difference. It might be to make a difference in an empirical way with respect to an organization OR to make a difference in a social relationship (like when a friend asks you to support her cause). Almost everything comes back to these two things. Really.
A while back (3 years ago!), I blogged my own list – FYI here it is. I don’t think it’s changed much.
Reasons I give:
a. Someone I know asked me to give
b. I felt emotionally moved by someone’s story
c. I want to feel I’m not powerless in the face of need and can help (this is especially true during disasters)
d. I want to feel I’m changing someone’s life
e. I feel a sense of closeness to a community or group
f. I need a tax deduction
g. I want to memorialize someone (who is struggling or died of a disease, for example)
h. I was raised to give to charity – it’s tradition in my family
i. I want to be “hip” and supporting this charity (ie, wearing a yellow wrist band) is in style
j. It makes me feel connected to other people and builds my social network
k. I want to have a good image for myself/my company
l. I want to leave a legacy that perpetuates me, my ideals or my cause
m. I feel fortunate (or guilty) and want to give something back to others
n. I give for religious reasons – God wants me to share my affluence
o. I want to be seen as a leader/role model
I can’t tell from today’s book excerpt where the writers of this new book are going, but it seems they are urging us to focus on the #2 - the making a difference part of giving - in a more dispassionate way. I think most donors want to know their gifts have impact but unless they are a high net worth individual or an outlier like giving circle member, the amount of effort the average donor will expend on determining their impact and using it to shape their giving patterns is going to be minimal. Heck, we don’t even spend that kind of time on management of our 401k. So the key is going to be easy, apples-to-apples measurement of nonprofit effectiveness. Like 3 stars. And that is really hard to accomplish. In short, if we’re being urged to think in business terms, we have a supply problem (no great, consistent, comparable data from nonprofits, though GreatNonprofits, Charity Navigator and others are trying to get us there) and we have a demand problem (not that many donors are going to spend a lot of time and energy analyzing their impact - they want simple answers). That’s going to make this kind of change very slow.
But that kind of change has to happen to some degree. Donors want a feeling they ARE having SOME KIND of impact, and they want SOME feeling of involvement in the cause they are supporting. We have to do better to meet those needs. Of that much, I’m sure. Because if we feel our money is wasted, we lose on both forms of ROI - personal AND social.