What Donors Would Like You to Know

Advice from the Pros

If you are reading this post, you care about effective philanthropy. Have you ever wondered what advice major, multi-generational philanthropists would give to those beginning their philanthropic journey? We did, so we asked a few.

We spoke with 4 donors, all the second or third generation in their family to be involved in significant philanthropy. They come from across the country—Washington State, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Texas—and all are leaders in their communities and involved in the causes they support. Their philanthropy often meets immediate community needs, but health care, the arts, education and faith-based initiatives rise to the top in their sector giving. Some give in partnership with their spouse, others lead family foundations. All are experienced, thoughtful, generous and wise and have achieved significant change through their philanthropy.

We reviewed their comments, looked for synchronicity and found a few consistent themes. We hope their advice will help you achieve more targeted, authentic and enduring support.

  • Remember Whose Money It Is—Do your homework and speak to what the donor cares about, ask the right person, don’t become dependent on a few large donors.
  • People Give to People—Make sure all your stakeholders give and that all maintain an excellent reputation in the community, what’s going on ‘inside the tent’ matters to donors.
  • Communicate Clearly—The nonprofit mission, a well-defined need, a solid financial model, and clear future objectives must be addressed and effectively communicated.
  • Follow Through and Follow Up—After receiving the donation, regularly communicate the ongoing impact, sustainability and scale of your initiative, let them know you are good stewards of their investment and keep saying thank you.
  •  The Wallet Follows the Heart—Engage the donor in both short and long-term planning, explain why meeting this need, even if small, is important and is a generational effort that will endure over time.