Why the Wealthy Don't Give More
Several years ago, a news piece on a poll by U.S. Trust and Phoenix Marketing gave us interesting insights into the giving of the wealthy and clues on how to unlock their giving to your organization. Take a look, as those findings are still true today.
The poll's three reasons the wealthy don't give more are as follows. Every major gift officer (MGO) should pay attention to them:
- Fear that their gift will not be used wisely.
- Lack of knowledge or connection to a charity.
- Fear of increased requests from others.
I wrote a post on why the rich don't give to charity. In that post, I talked about the fact that one of the reasons the wealthy don’t give as much of their resources to charity is that they are not exposed to, or are not as aware of, the need as the non-wealthy. Take a look at that post and the article in The Atlantic that explores the topic.
And then add to the list of reasons above the fourth reason:
- Wealthy people are not close to or aware of the need, and 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 five 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, emails, etc., although this may be more difficult, as they may not 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 [insert your issue] are and what we are doing about it.” You might have a friend of the donor invite them to this kind of by invitation only event. They could be assured, in 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 orchestrate to offer programming (be a speaker) to that gathering and thereby give the donor information that 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. (Click the link to learn more about what that means.)
2. You haven’t asked them to give.
Unsurprisingly, the leading reason people don’t give is they haven’t been asked. Following right behind that, a related reason is 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: "I just don’t feel comfortable asking for more,” or “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 donor privately doesn’t trust the organization to handle their gift.
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 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. 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 they will get bombarded with asks from others.
The simple solution to this fear has two parts. As in No. 3 above, you need to bring it out in the open (part one) and say, “George, some donors have expressed a fear that, if they give, they will be smothered with 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 (part two) 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.
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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—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—of all the reasons stated for why the wealthy don’t give as much—is getting the wealthy donor close to the need, so they can see it, think about it and feel it. It is relatively easier 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, which is why I have written about that topic extensively.
So, spend 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 that have greater capacity and wealth, pay attention to what I have written here.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.