Personalized Philanthropy

Personalized Philanthropy – Foreword

From Doug White’s Foreword

“Donor-focused philanthropy” has become a cliché. After decades of “it’s all-about-our-organization fundraising,” charities thought it wise to take into account what donors might need from the gift transaction. For a long time, this meant little more than applying planned giving techniques, many of which provide payments or an income to the donor in exchange for giving up an asset. But those methods, which, by the way, can be immensely beneficial to both the donor and the charity, are still much more transactional than emotionally comprehensive; techniques taken from the shelf of the 1969 Tax Act. More recently, and a bit more expansively, the question has grown to include what donors need, not only from a financial perspective but what they need from a mission perspective—the donor’s mission, not just the charity’s.

But while that’s the better idea, until now it’s been pretty much only an idea. The words donor-focused philanthropy sound nice, but there hasn’t been much to concretely define them or put them to some strategic use.

Steven Meyers has finally broken through the linguistic and strategic logjam to make sense of connecting donor and charities in a way that will, and already does at some organizations, change the way money is raised. It’s not just a new twist to take into account a roller-coaster economy and it’s not just a new gimmick to address what has come to be known as the great generational wealth transfer. Using a metaphor of an imprisoning matrix—the typical development office with its goals and deadlines—Steve artfully and persuasively works through and explains three concepts: virtual endowments, philanthropic equity gifts, and step-up gifts. Each captures what’s wrong with the current fundraising model and provides a basis for improving it.

This is not to say that fundraisers today are doing a poor job. Quite the contrary: those who work at charities are doing yeoman’s work to make their organizations better as they pursue their missions. But it is also true that development offices can be bureaucratic and, because of inherent limitations, much more could be done. In fact, as donor-focused philanthropy has been a personal cause of mine for many years, I have seen how many organizations limit their ability to raise funds simply because they are not fully engaged with the donor’s needs or desires. But to be engaged, fundraisers need to ask a whole different set of questions. Steve guides us through those questions and helps us make meaning of the responses we are likely to get from donors. Doing that, of course, will enhance donors’ appreciation for the work charities do and, yes, increase their support.

This, Steve calls personalized philanthropy. As he says, “I want to know why all philanthropy is not already personalized philanthropy.” I do too.
Doug White
Author, Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family’s Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University
Director, Master of Science Program in Fundraising Management, Columbia University


Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix
Engaging donors for impact and recognition now.
We can show you how.

In this book Steven covers:
Chapter One–The Two Cultures of Fundraising: Preparing to Crash Your Fundraising Matrix
Chapter Two–Matrix-Killing Apps of Personalized Philanthropy
Chapter Three–Radically Rethinking Endowment: Powerful Examples in Practice
Chapter Four–Moving Beyond Conventional Solicitation – New Best Practices for Personalized Philanthropy
Chapter Five–Counting, Numbers, Value and the Big Picture
Chapter Six–Being the Change and Making your Own Shift