In advancement, we focus a great deal of energy and time on the financial potential of donors. Their capacity to give.
We spend valuable resources on electronic wealth screens. We organize donor lists based on wealth screening scores. We plan meetings around strategies based on the financial capacity of donors and prospects.
We rarely spend anything close to the same level of time, resources, and focus on a donor’s willingness to be generous. Have they learned how to let go and share? What evidence do we have that they have been generous previously – if not toward our mission, then in support of another worthy cause? Have they discovered the authentic joy of giving?
Perhaps we concentrate so intently on the potential of our donors because it’s exciting. It’s provocative. It’s inspiring. And it’s simple. With a single score or assumption, potential gives us the license to imagine the great things that could happen with a donor.
A donor’s willingness to be generous, on the other hand, is more tedious. It’s more complicated, especially when we don’t have evidence for it. And, it’s less imagination and more fact.
In the end, though, a donor’s willingness to be generous will always be more consequential than their financial capacity. It simply doesn’t matter how much wealth a donor has if she is unwilling to share it.
In advancement, we should be spending more time assessing our donors’ willingness to give generously. We should be spending more time creatively strategizing on the best ways to encourage and invite generosity.
Because, just like in life more generally, what someone is willing to do matters much more than what they have the potential to do.