September 20, 2017
 
Practical Advice for Donors – and Nonprofit Fundraisers

New fundraising realities—where the contest for donor dollars is fiercer than ever—means nonprofits have to compete smarter, and a good place to start is by understanding the evolving mindset of those who give, effectively presented in Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving.

Authored by Eric Friedman, an individual donor who has spent several years trying to understand how to maximize the impact of his own giving, the book is aimed squarely at donors who want to make their giving more impactful and derive greater satisfaction in the process.

But it’s just as vital for nonprofit fundraisers to understand the motivations of donors, particularly the rising generation of nonprofit supporters who, numerous studies have found, want their philanthropy to help nonprofits do more than run in place – and solve vexing social problems.

“Philanthropy is broken,” Friedman contends: “Fundraisers know that the causes that get the most donations are not necessarily the ones that make the greatest impact. Many donors recognize that they do not know how to define what a ‘high-performing’ nonprofit is, let alone how to identify them.”

It is because individual donors often base their giving on personal whims and preferences, regardless of need and impact, he writes, that philanthropy “isn’t working as it should” and therefore needs to be reinvented.

More than just a critic of the status quo, Friedman outlines a number of practical strategies to help those who want to go beyond supporting a favorite cause by directing their gifts to make the most substantial impact. They include:
  • Creating a precisely defined mission statement.
  • Developing a filter to select among the many causes in need of support.
  • Determining how to leverage their giving to increase the impact of their philanthropy.
Recognizing that the decision to give isn’t solely driven by a dry, objective analysis of competing charities, Friedman advises donors not to shy away from making subjective comparisons. He argues that while donors should strive to become “do-besters,” they also need to be comfortable with the notion that there is no single “best” cause.

Similarly, he writes, donors should put their money in the hands of people they believe in. He recommends that donors quiz potential grantees on what they’re trying to do and why, why they believe one course of action is better than others, and how they will assess progress and make adjustments. How nonprofits talk about their failures, and explain what they’ve learned from them, will provide helpful insights that can guide effective giving.

Not to be undervalued is that “do-besters” want to feel good about their giving. That is, they want to experience the same inner, warm glow that most donors seek. The key difference is “do-besters” have engaged in a more intellectually rigorous assessment of their gift before they give.

Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving is available is available from Potomac Books.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

August 2013



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