What Donors Want, Part Umpteen

Hi, my name is Tony Macklin.  I’m a philanthropy geek.  (Hi Tony!)  I just downloaded reports on the motivations and behaviors of donors.  I hadn’t downloaded reports for three weeks, but, I felt weak and couldn’t help myself.

From the Nonprofit Quarterly, What Do Donors Want? – Philanthropic advisors William Dietel and Cynthia Gibson caution against an uninhibited “march to metrics” in the world of philanthropy.  They join The Philanthropic Initiative’s Peter Karoff and other in arguing for keeping a balance of art and science in giving by donors and foundations.  They also cite an upcoming book by Princeton’s Danny Oppenheimer that summarizes research into giving behavior:

“no matter what objective information is available, the large majority of donors will give as a result of emotional or relational factors.”

I’ll probably even pick up Oppenheimer’s book, though I’ll probably need the new book Proofiness to make sure I understand the data…

From the National Center for Family Philanthropy, The Power to Produce Wonders:  The Value of Family in Philanthropy – NCFP interviewed 300 family philanthropy leaders to learn more about how giving adds value to their lives, how their personal participation adds value to the giving process and its results, and the value family philanthropy provides to America’s democracy.  Families cited family giving as helping them, among other things, express their passions, continue their entrepreneurial spirit, and provide a means of sustaining values and legacy.  The hope of the family having a specific measurable, data-driven impact doesn’t appear on the list, though I suspect that could have more to do with the line of questioning rather than a lack of any interest.

And, from Russ Reid, Heart of the Donor – The firm’s telephone sample of 2000+ adults confirmed trends in giving by other studies.  It also re-affirmed that donors use online research to check up on nonprofits, but human factors overwhelmingly keep a donor coming back to give again:  the organization’s fit with the donor’s interests (e.g. dance or dogs or dancing dogs) and the organization’s trustworthiness and integrity.

Maybe it’s time to set up a national referendum on the donor motivation parties, allowing the “philanthropy is art” vs. “philanthropy is science” parties to argue their cases in heated debates, high-paid ads, and shadowy viral videos.  Those of us “it’s both” moderates – as in today’s electoral politics – probably need not apply…