Helping Donors Give On Purpose

We are quickly approaching the Giving Season.  Soon, men and women in holiday costumes will stand outside of crowded store entrances ringing bells and seeking the coins loosely jiggling in pockets.  Your snail mailbox will be stuffed with colorful envelopes filled with compelling pleas of support.  Mostly all fine causes, to be sure.  And donors will be reminded to give or prodded into giving for a first time.

The vast majority of these gifts will be given by happenstance.  Happy luck.  Five minutes prior to walking into the store or opening the mailbox, the donor may not have been thinking about giving to that particular organization.  Instead, her life path crossed with the institution’s fundraising efforts and she was moved to make the gift – albeit modest in most instances.  The vast majority of gifts are made this way.  No real forethought.  No real planning.  Just a donor moved in a moment to give.

By contrast, our work as development professionals is to help donors plan their giving.   To help them become more contemplative and generative about their giving.  To encourage donors to give not by accident, but to give on purpose.   To educate them that a thoughtful approach to giving will make a bigger impact.  To teach them that a reflective approach to giving is important.   When we mentor, coach, and teach in these ways, we help donors see the wisdom of engaging more fully in our work.  And, most importantly, we help them take full advantage of an opportunity to experience the authentic joy and peace that comes with meaningful giving.

Socrates is purported to have said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  In development, we might adopt a similar theme for our work with donors:  “the unexamined gift is not worth giving.”

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