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Guidance for Giving Away Your Fantasy Fortune

At a recent family gathering, my cousin came up to me and said, “I’m calling you if I ever win the lottery.” Now, my cousin is a smart, successful businessman with an accounting background, so you can imagine the quizzical look he received and my inspired reply, “What?” He went on to explain that since my background was in fundraising, he thought I could help him decide where to donate his money. I was impressed for two reasons. One, his first thought was about giving away his new, although imaginary, fortune. Second, he wanted to make thoughtful and directed decisions about where his money would go.

Continuing our conversation, I asked him about his priorities. Family and religion came first as expected, and he indicated that he already contributes to his church. He also expressed what he wasn’t concerned with. While other family members help build water wells in Central America, and my cousin certainly recognizes their good work and the benefits to the communities they serve, it wasn’t something that fired him up. I then asked, “What are you passionate about?” This is what he needs to discover, because passion about and belief in an organization is going to make giving fun, meaningful and satisfying for him.

What’s the practical advice I’d give my cousin? Find organizations that interest you and then test them by reviewing their website. Are they thorough in showing their financials, annual reports, strategic plan, 990s? Do they demonstrate the impact philanthropic dollars have on fulfilling their mission? I would also suggest making a significant contribution to see how the organization handles it.

As fundraising professionals, we must strive to do a good job of cultivating and stewarding our donors by demonstrating how well we value them and their financial support.

  • How do we welcome new donors to our organization?

  • Are we taking the time to learn about and understand their passions and interests?

  • Are we sharing our vision and showing them how they can participate in helping us fulfill our goals?

  • Are we doing a good job of telling donors about how we invest their contributions?

  • Are we asking them to become more involved?

  • And, as they become more involved, are we giving them the opportunity to invest more?

We have to make sure we’re doing our part to help donors discover the joy of giving. Ultimately, as fundraisers, isn’t that our goal— connecting donors with their passions? Whether donors give to our organization or another non-profit, we all benefit when they are excited about the contributions they make.

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