Q-and-A With Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon
The book "The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan" by renowned philanthropists Charles Bronfman, co-founder of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, and Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, guides philanthropists on how to get the most out of their giving.
The book looks at three components of giving for a philanthropist: themselves, partner organizations and their gifts. Through introspection, the authors advise, philanthropists should determine how giving will satisfy and fulfill them, then they can identify which organization/organizations are the best match for their gifts.
Recently, FundRaising Success had a chance to catch up with the two authors to get their insight on what best practices the tips they share in the book yield for nonprofit fundraisers.
FundRaising Success: What inspired you to write this book? Why now?
Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon: We believed we could make a leveraged contribution to the field by writing this book and aiming it especially at donors, who often do not think about the strategic opportunities in their giving. The book was conceived when the Dow was between 13,000 and 14,000, but written once it had plunged below 10,000. As such, we believe it has even more relevance now as donors look to both value and a self nurturing to maintain their giving in tougher times.
FS: Your book focuses on the idea that giving is both selfish and selfless and it's key for philanthropists to understand their motivations in order to be fulfilled in giving. Can you discuss a bit what this premise yields for fundraisers at nonprofit organizations looking to engage and build relationships with philanthropists? Any tips that come out of it?
CB and JS: Paul Schervish of Boston College studies donor motivations and has noted that a major difference in today's donors as against an earlier generation is that contemporary donors are giving to nonprofits that help them achieve their personal mission. For development professionals, this represents both a challenge and a great opportunity. It is not enough to spotlight one's nonprofit brand. One must connect the brand with the potential impact that is possible when a person makes both the connection and the gift. Providing feedback to nourish the donor's soul is critical at this time.
FS: You focus mostly on the donor, but, rather than just sitting and waiting for philanthropists to decide they're the one, what do you suggest organizations do to become part of this philanthropy picture and stay in the game?
CB and JS: This is a moment for both high-touch and high-tech approaches. The keyword is engagement. Whether connecting to a larger number of small donors via new media or going one on one with potential major donors, involvement, engagement, transparency and making that personal connection is important. More than ever, boards and friends of the organization should be key prospectors for the development professional.
FS: How can nonprofits use the concepts behind a person's philanthropy plan of action to influence their own strategies?
CB and JS: The first opportunity is to understand that such a plan exists and to better understand what the donor is seeking in the relationship. Just as the book lays out a serious of steps for the donor, the nonprofit should be positioned to respond to each of these steps and be ready with the material and human resources that grow meaningful strategic relationships.
FS: What do the five questions you recommend philanthropists ask themselves before giving mean for nonprofit organizations in terms of how they approach donors?
CB and JS: It suggests that nonprofits should be as discriminating about growing their supporters as we suggest donors are into developing meaningful relationships with nonprofits. The objective is to have a mutually respectful, deep understanding of what each seeks in the relationship. There are some donors whose juice is not worth the squeeze; that is, their expectations and lack of alignment divert the nonprofit from achieving overall goals and objectives. An honest dialogue about this can provide opportunities for more productive and financially viable relationships.
FS: You suggest a very businesslike approach to philanthropy. Do you suggest nonprofits manage themselves and their fundraising in a businesslike way as well?
CB and JS: Absolutely. Nonprofits should understand where they stand vis a vis their competition. How much money do they raise at what cost compared to similar organizations? Benchmarking is but one business technique that can better inform boards and management about development performance and potential for greater growth. While there is art in fundraising, there is also management discipline, which, too often, gets overlooked.
FS: How do you suggest philanthropists identify the right nonprofits, and what advice do these suggestions yield for nonprofits in terms of becoming the "right nonprofit"?
CB and JS: Once a philanthropist selects a field, (s)he should engage in research to identify the best of breed. (S)he may choose to work with a smaller player or a more marginal one as that better fits the philanthropic profile that is being shaped. The nonprofit can be responsive to opportunities, not by becoming everything to everyone, but by understanding its unique business proposition in that marketplace and building from that. As the philanthropist becomes more sophisticated about the intersection between the soul and business plan, the nonprofit that sits in that sweet spot can grow by being itself.