It is a privilege to be part of a philanthropic community. My work brings me into contact with many people that have a wide range of perspectives, goals, and philosophies.
The premise of philanthropy is that people decide of their own free will to spread goodness through their generosity.
Many people have worked hard, saved and invested so they can have extra to give. Giving ten dollars or a million dollars means someone has decided to forego the spending power of those dollars.
Each dollar also represents a unit of work, time, energy or talent that a person has bartered. Each dollar represents a piece of a person.
When I think of generosity as a person giving of themselves, it is indeed humbling. They agree with others that support a cause or charity that the outcomes or benefits of the endeavor are worth them giving up something. Not just giving to something. They have chosen to give up something.
The privilege to ask for and receive the kindness of others necessitates specific actions on our part.
1. Say Thank You. The first and foremost responsibility we take upon ourselves is to appreciate the giver. For most nonprofits in most situations, they should send a thank you and receipt within 48 hours of receiving a donation or before the money is received from the donor electronically whichever is sooner. The rule of thumb is that you should never cash the check of a donor before the receipt is on its way. When the check is cashed before we send the thank you, it can signal to the donor that we only want their money and not a partnership.
2. Update Donors and Partners on the outcomes. Be transparent how you are using their money. Make sure you account for each dollar and its the impact. Report on how their dollars have made an impact. This could be done through the thank you letter, a subsequent letter or a newsletter. You can even invite them to tour your organization to see first hand the impact of the work they support.
3. Know their name. Use their name on all correspondence. Take the time to make sure your information is accurate in your database. Change your records when people are deceased or go through a divorce.
4. Keep accurate records. Store their account information and gift information securely and accurately. Find the money to use a donor database that is not Excel. Back up the information daily and in multiple locations.
5. Meet people in person. Offer opportunities to donors to meet in person for coffee, attend an event or tour your facility. Have at least one significant connection with most donors and 2-4 meaningful engagements with donors who have given often or more than usual.
There are many other things I could share about our responsibility to donors:
Keep things simple and convenient.
Keep up with current technology and laws when asking for money.
The most significant thing we need to remember is that a gift from a supporter is personal, heartfelt and worthy of our respect. Yes, it takes time and energy to do things right. We will make mistakes, but we should endeavor to learn and be better at philanthropy.
My final thought is to abandon the word “should” from our vocabulary. A donor does not owe us generosity. We owe them an urgent and real opportunity to change the world. When they give, it is truly a gift.
Abandon any thought that your cause is so important and self-evident that everyone should and must give out of necessity. We can never say it is a moral imperative for them to give.
We can say how we feel the cause is so important to us that we will do everything in our power to passionately influence others to join us in a choice to make a difference.
The only person that could make a claim on our time and energy as something owed him, chose instead to give himself for all of mankind. Let us be kind first and let others change their mind and choose to join us in philanthropy:
The giving of oneself for a cause bigger than our selves that serves others where they are at and as they are.
I would sum philanthropy is a “generous abundance of grace” that I choose to give to others. A desire to be kind in a tangible way. Encourage others to be grace-filled. Do everything in your power to share that grace with a spirit of thanksgiving.