Educating HENRY

Do you know HENRY?  Better yet, are you educating HENRY?

HENRY is an acronym, first coined in a 2003 Fortune magazine article.  It stands for High Earner, Not Rich Yet donors.

Typically, HENRY donors are early in the major gift cycle, somewhere between 35-50 years of age.  They make $250k+ per year.  Their kids attend private schools.  They pay for piano and swimming lessons.  And many are quick to tell you that they can’t make a significant gift.  You know these donors.

HENRY donors have three broad educational needs:

1.  Understanding the personal benefits that come with making a major gift.  Because HENRY donors typically don’t have much experience with the process of making a substantial gift commitment, they also may not fully grasp the gratifying psychological, spiritual, and even physical benefits of stretching to support an organization which does the good work of transforming lives and communities.

2. Understanding major gift work as a relational and not a transactional exchange.  HENRY donors who serve on your boards, committees, or councils sometimes struggle to understand that major giving is a personal, relational process.  Development professionals understand that major gifts occur when a donor is solicited to support a personally meaningful organization by someone they respect and trust.  Development professionals understand major gifts occur when the interests and passions of the donor are married with the work of the organization.  But because they have limited major gift experience (and most likely a ton of business experience) HENRY donors may view the major gift process much like a business transaction.  Using this model, the goal is transactional – to convince or even manipulate someone to part with a portion of their wealth as quickly as possible.

3.  Understanding the importance of major gifts. Because HENRY donors haven’t had many opportunities to provide leadership to campaigns or major gift initiatives, they sometimes hold the very democratic, but wrong-headed notion that major charitable gift goals can be achieved by asking a lot of people to each give a little.  Regardless of the historical evidence, they may struggle to embrace the authenticity of the pyramid of gifts.  This difficulty sometimes stems from their own unwillingness to commit to providing gifts at the top levels of the pyramid.

So, how can you enhance the education of your HENRY donors?  While there are many helpful tactics – such has having younger major donors who “get it” to speak at events and functions – it is important remember that any education is a process.   It will take time to educate your HENRY donors and each HENRY donor will evolve (educationally speaking) at their own pace.

But never question the importance of educating HENRY donors – because in a few years, some of them will become your HEATHER donors (High Earner And Time Has Enabled Riches).   Ok, so I made that one up.

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