One of the greatest features of fundraising is having a front-row seat for seeing lives changed; and, by that, I mean donors’ lives.
Clearly, nonprofits positively impact the lives of individuals and communities, and money is necessary to accomplish any mission. Seeing a nonprofit raise its stature and visibility, as well as its budget, is incredibly rewarding, but it’s a more obvious outcome.
What may be less often noticed is the behind-the-scenes changes in the lives of donors who move from providing support to participating personally to becoming pro-actively involved in a cause.
For example, I had invited a couple to join my wife and me for a fundraising banquet. They were happy to be part of the event and generously gave a gift to support the mission. With a stroke of pen, they were donors.
But as great as it was for the nonprofit to receive their gift, what took place after was even more significant.
The couple was so taken with the organization’s work and accomplishments that they began asking important questions. “What are the organization’s most urgent needs?” “Is there anything we can do, in addition to giving money, that would be helpful?” “What are the greatest challenges staff and volunteers are facing?” … and so on.
The couple wanted to do more than give money; they wanted to give of themselves. Quickly, they moved from being solely donors to thinking like insiders and problem solvers. They became a couple with a vested interest … philanthropists.
I remember asking them about their giving, “How do you decide how to direct your philanthropy?” “Oh, we’re not philanthropists,” they responded. Asking again, I said, “What do you consider a philanthropist?” Not surprisingly, they responded with a dollar range, mentioned media attention and cited a few well-known names. “Would it surprise you to know philanthropist means one who has a love of humankind? Isn’t that you?” “Yes,” they agreed, a bit reluctantly, “That’s certainly our motivation. I guess we are philanthropists.”
Seeing donors (giving money) become committed philanthropists (getting at the root of problems in order to help solve them) is just one example of what it means to unleash your power of philanthropy.
At the heart of it, philanthropy is not about giving a certain dollar amount or garnering attention for the giving. It is about having a new, philanthropic point of view.