How Happy Are Your Donors?

In prospect management meetings all across the country this week, advancement teams have prioritized donor portfolios based on the two most important variables currently in use:

  1. Capacity (a wealth estimate of some sort), and;
  2. Interest (an estimate of how ‘close’ or ‘engaged’ the prospect is with the institution).

No matter the terms used for these two variables (your institution may utilize other names), to do this work well, we organize our major donors by these concepts.

But perhaps we’ve not been including all of the important variables.

According to a new, landmark study focused on giving from around the world conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation in Britain,

“being happy is more of an influence on giving money to charity than being wealthy.”

The survey asked participants about their financial gifts to charity and then asked them to rank how happy they were with life on a scale of 1-10.  Ultimately, the study found a stronger relationship between giving money away and being happy than the relationship between giving money away and being wealthy.

Now, of course, this doesn’t suggest a causal link.  The study doesn’t say that one must be happy prior to giving (or vice versa).  Only that there is a strong relationship between happiness and giving of money.  The study also doesn’t make the distinction about major gifts versus checkbook gifts – it simply asks about financial gifts in a general sense.

So, when we review, prioritize, and create strategy for our major donor portfolios, perhaps we should start mixing-in a third variable – the happiness variable.  Just how happy is Mr. Smith, anyway?


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