Last week, to international scientific acclaim, physicists from Geneva’s CERN announced they had discovered a new subatomic particle which holds the promise to help explain all life on earth. The Higgs boson particle – or the “God Particle” as it has become known – has been theorized since the 1960s. But it wasn’t until a mountain’s worth of data from the 17-mile circular tunnel called the Large Hadron Collider was examined by two separate teams that a “Higgs-like” particle was observed.
While I’m no physicist, as best I understand it, the Higgs boson provides all other particles with mass. Scientists didn’t have an answer for why some particles were lighter – less massive – and thus, moved about much more quickly. While other particles had more mass and, thus, moved more slowly. Where did the mass come from?
The Higgs boson particle – or a Higgs field of particles – provided a theorized answer. Think about a bunch of Higgs particles joined together that create a kind of invisible molasses. Other particles flow through the molasses and they get weighed down and slow down. Without the Higgs field of invisible molasses, all particles would be shooting around at the speed of light and life, as we know it, would not be possible. In other words, the Higgs field of particles would endow other particles with life giving mass. Important stuff.
So, this got me thinking about our major donors. If we think about all our donors as the particles zooming around, we recognize that some are have less financial heft, less gravitas. These are those donors who may love us but do not have the financial wherewithall to make major commitments. But there are other donors with much more “financial mass.” These donors have the capability to make major commitments. These donors have traveled through some version of an invisible financial “Higgs field” and come out the other side with much more weight in their bank accounts.
A few questions then arise. For instance:
- Are there people in the “financial Higgs field” who influence these major donors?
- Are there “financial Higgs field” places which attract these major donors?
- Are there specific professional titles that suggest that a donors has traveled through a “financial Higgs field?”
I would suggest that the answer to each of these questions is in the affirmative. For example, according to the 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy by the Center on Philanthropy by Indiana University, almost 70% of high net worth donors consult with legal and financial professionals prior to making philanthropic decisions. So, the financial Higgs field is filled with accountants, attorneys, and bank trust officers. How well do you know these influencers for your donors?
Similarly, if we think about the places that influence major donors, we would be wise to investigate where they live and whether they visit a house of worship regularly. Wealthy individuals tend to live in clusters. When is the last time you looked at a list of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. and overlapped it with your donor database? Likewise, a number of surveys and studies strongly suggest that those who characterize themselves as “religious” give more in both time and money. Which of your major donor prospects attend church regularly?
Finally, I regularly ask my clients to go through their database and pull out any records that have “CEO,” “President,” “Vice President,” “COO,” etc., as titles. Of course, not all big sounding titles can be correlated with high wealth. However, there are many instances where this type of exercise uncovers new major donor prospects and leads to the cultivation of new major donors.
Just as discovering the Higgs boson is a major step forward in better understanding all life, uncovering the characteristics of a “financial Higgs field” can be a major step forward in better understanding our most important donors.