Major Gifts Fundraising Psychology With Norman Gildin reveals how you can help a donor make a choice to invest a major gifts in a way that meets their personal goals. Here’s what fundraising veteran Norman Gildin has to share:
The first chapter of my book “Learn From My Experiences” (www.normangildin.com) tackles the fundamental question fundraisers face: “Why Do People Give?” It shouldn’t be a secret that half the folks who contribute to a nonprofit do so for one reason alone – they were asked. Simple? Not quite. See the above chapter for multiple other reasons.
In this essay, I intend to probe deeper than mere surface explanations as to what effectively motivates people to give. All of us want a more in-depth understanding of what turns on donors. If only it was as straightforward as flicking a light switch on and off. Sometimes it’s even more complicated than completing a Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
Major Gifts Fundraising Psychology With Norman Gildin
The APS Observer, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science, quotes Mother Theresa in a story, “The Power of One: The Psychology of Charity” which gives us some direction. The article asserts, “Mother Teresa famously said: ‘If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.’” This underlines an invaluable lesson for fundraisers. The scientific paper continues,
“Our compassion and generosity should grow as the number of poor and suffering multiplies, but the opposite seems to occur. Some numbers are just too big and abstract to grasp, so they lose their power… Modern charities might take a lesson from this quirk of human thinking…This simply means that, when asked to give money to help some number of needy people, say 100—we ignore the number 100. We can’t verify that number anyway, so instead, we substitute easy-to-read cues, like our feelings for a single needy person.”
To this point, I just came across The Pocket Guide to Fundraising Psychology by Classy.org, a giving platform that enables nonprofits to connect supporters with the causes they care about. An insightful viewpoint offered in the Guide is the importance of introducing emotions the right way when engaging with a contributor. The example given is subtle, yet striking.
The Guide posits the following: there are two ways to ask a donor to empathize with an individual in need. The first is this: suggest to the supporter to imagine the feelings of the disadvantaged person; the second is to consider the giver’s feelings as if the giver were in the shoes of the needy person. There is an understated distinction between both approaches.
The focus of the first tactic helps the prospect sympathize with the person in need to help alleviate that individual’s suffering; the second method shifts the focus onto the donor and away from the other person’s needs. The latter draws attention to the prospect’s welfare and can create personal distress which distracts from the solicitation. In so doing, the sponsor might be less inclined to consider the plight of the sufferer. The subtlety may be the difference between securing a charitable gift or not.
In 2007, a study was described by Stanford Business in the journal Insights. It was done to ascertain what makes people more likely to be generous. The headline of the story speaks to this issue: “To Increase Charitable Donations, Appeal to the Heart, Not the Head.” According to the study conducted by Deborah Small, a Wharton marketing professor, and two colleagues, “The researchers found that if organizations want to raise money for a charitable cause, it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head. Put another way, feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations.”
There are several major donor gift anecdotes from my own experiences that come to mind and affirm this view. I once met a prospective patron in his office and related the case of a woman who was being evicted from her apartment because of financial circumstances resulting from her recent thorny divorce. Her children were psychiatrically disabled and unable to attend summer camp. When all facets of the situation were presented, while maintaining the woman’s confidentiality, the result was a major gift that got her through the year and also paid for the kids’ camps.
I remember another situation when I approached a benefactor about a terminally ill patient in our Hospice. My meeting humanized the struggles of the long-suffering man who was in the last stages of his life. By describing the specific care provided to this man including late-night calls to staff for support, procurement of a therapeutic bed to handle bedsores, delivery of specialized equipment, and pastoral care interventions with the distraught family, the donor contributed big-heartedly to the program.
A word to the wise. Some philanthropists are more interested in metrics, budgets, and number charts and will not be swayed by emotions. That’s fine. Work with their requirements. But, gently remind them of the axiom by Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
About the author: Norman B. Gildin is the author of the new book on nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the President of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits to raise critical funds for their organization. His website is www.normangildin.com.
Major Gifts Fundraising Psychology With Norman Gildin was first posted at MajorGiftsRampUp.com
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