A little bit of love and understanding

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We have been musing: are charities really in the right space when it comes to communicating with donors, particularly major donors? New Philanthropy Capital’s excellent report, Money for Good, explores what motivates donors to give to charity. You could be forgiven for thinking that major donors are all primarily driven by responding to ‘needs’ and that if only charities were to share that need: the stories of beneficiaries and their work, that our prospective friends would respond. But take a look at this report, and others like it, and they tell quite a different story …


The truth is philanthropists are often persuaded by causes to which they have a personal connection or some link in terms of their own personal experience. What’s needed is less information and more understanding. Don’t just tell, ask; don’t speak, listen…

Philanthropy differs from mainstream giving, in that major donors are much more likely to say they define themselves through the act of giving. It makes sense that appealing to their own personal concerns and values will have more cut-through than simply emphasising there’s a problem to fix.

If you’re a reader, dip into Beth Breeze and Theresa Lloyd’s fascinating book, Richer Lives, Why Rich People Give. Take a look at a few of the great verbatims, and you’ll be wholly convinced of the need for greater love and understanding:

“You can only persuade people to give by appealing to an interest or a passion … the case for support has to be personal and powerful’ HNW donor

Although times are changing, charities largely operate a broadcast model, telling major donors what they’re doing, their aims and objectives.   This can lead to a breakdown in understanding, with the charity thinking “if only we tell them, give them more information…they’ll understand” and then the philanthropist’s response, “you really don’t understand ME!”

So comes the case for a little bit of love and understanding. Let’s think about major donors as individuals with their own preferences, experiences and passions. Profile them to get up close and personal: to understand not just what they do, but how they feel about things and why? Remember it’s less about you, and more about them … always!

Jane Thurlow