Why You Need to Know About the Donor Hierarchy of Needs
If your nonprofit doesn’t complete the exchange circuit for donors, their search for meaning gets cut short.
There’s a reason short-circuiting happens.
Too often, charities (well, the people in them) don’t think very highly of their donors. They ascribe all sorts of selfish motives to donors’ giving. Have you ever heard:
- They just want their name in lights
- They’re just a social climber
- They just want to assuage their conscience
- They were born with a silver spoon, they don’t understand the value of money
- It’s easy for them, it’s not really a sacrifice or noble act
- They just want to look good to their friends
Sure, maybe some of this happens. But it’s a very shallow, mean-spirited way of looking at donors. I’ve never met a donor where this was all that motivated their giving. Human drives are much more complex.
Maslow posited that once the basic “physiological needs” are met, people are wired to move on to fulfill the unmet “deficiency needs,” such as love, belonging and esteem. The ultimate need, however, is not so much a deficiency as an imperative. Maslow stated about the self-actualization stage:
“What a man can be, he must be.”
This is the level at which transformation occurs.
And it’s so important for nonprofits to hold this close as their end goal whenever someone makes a donation. The first gift is simply a one-time transaction. If you consider that your end-game, it will be. Simply put, you’re unlikely to get a second donation.
You must take donors on a transformative journey that gets them to self-actualization.
Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything one can, to become the most one can be. And this is where nonprofits can really make a difference. You, yes you, have the power to give your donor the meaning he or she seeks.
In the year ahead, I encourage you to embrace your power. And empower your donors. You both deserve it.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.