What can a few billionaires teach you about fundraising?
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have put together a group of 40 billionaires who have promised to give away at least half their wealth to philanthropic causes.
That’s pretty good news. But unless your charity is in line for one of the resulting gifts, you might think that’s the end of the story.
You’d be wrong.
Before you get back to putting together your next appeal, can I suggest that you take a quick visit to The Giving Pledge and have a look around. Within a click or two you’ll find details of the actual pledges.
When you do, you’ll see that Bill and Warren have given us all a rather special gift – a copy of the original letter from each billionaire that explains just why they are giving so much money away.
Stop and think about that for a minute.
Just a click away are 40 letters written by the wealthiest donors in the world explaining just why they give, what they are interested in and what motivates them.
That’s a priceless resource.
When you’ll read them, you’ll see that time after time, what comes over is the joy that people get from giving. Take this quote from Peter G. Peterson, Chair of The Blackstone Group:
“As I watched and learned from my father’s example, I noticed how much pleasure his giving to others gave him. Indeed, today, I get much more pleasure giving money to what I consider worthwhile causes than making the money in the first place. As I checked with other philanthropists, I found this was a very common experience.”
Or this, from Gerry Lenfest, Chair of the Telvue Corporation:
“One is not measured by how many homes, yachts or airplanes you have. The ultimate achievement in life is how you feel about yourself. And giving your wealth away to have an impact for good does help with that feeling.”
Or perhaps, most importantly, this example from Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot.
“I share this with you because of happiness one can conceive by watching the joys of their work.
I remember very vividly a child that I had seen about a year ago that was severely autistic in my walk through MAC. Someone pointed this child out to me and when he looked at me he went into total hysteria, e.g. screaming, butting his head against the wall, etc. These actions happen with children of these disabilities.
Approximately one year later we were doing a documentary with NBC and I walked into a classroom where the producer asked me to appear with one of the children.
There was this same young man and I was horrified he would have another episode as he had in the past. Instead he came over, sat in my lap and talked! By the way, he had not spoken for the six years of his life before going to MAC.
I cried, the teachers cried, the cameraman cried, and the parents cried. What a blessing this was to have changed one life and to have had such an impact on a life.
I encourage you to always try to see the faces of the recipients you help.”
Few of these super-wealthy donors talk about the detail of the causes they fund. Expense ratios, cases for support and brands aren’t mentioned at all. Just one donor talks of giving because of guilt.
Instead they concentrate on describing the emotional reaction they have when they see the impact of their giving.
And in that respect they are just like everyone else.
They are normal people who just happen to have massive bank accounts. They have the same motivations to give as the rest of us. The only difference is that their power, their wealth and their influence results in them being able to regularly see the impact of their actions, first hand.
As you read their letters, you’ll see stories of involvement and engagement. The writers are not just giving money and walking away. They are staying around for the long-term.
They are building rich and rewarding relationships with the people and causes they are helping.
You can see that they enjoy their giving. And the more they enjoy it, the more they give away – millions of dollars more.
And that brings me to the point of this post. Why can’t all donors receive this same level of insight and enjoyment from supporting a charity?
Take a look child sponsorship charities like ActionAid and World Vision and you’ll see that providing good feedback to donors on an individual level isn’t impossible and it certainly isn’t expensive. In fact, the levels of income and donor loyalty that these charities generate demonstrates the complete opposite.
Great feedback raises more money. And donors love it. It doesn’t matter if you are giving away ten pounds or tens of millions. What all donors actually want is to see the impact they have had on someone or something’s life.
It shouldn’t require a billionaire to tell us what we should be doing. But just in case, I’ve reproduced the pledge from Ronald O. Perelman. Should he every fancy a change in career, I think he might just have a bright future as fundraiser ahead of him.