What Giving Style Is at the Heart of Your Philanthropy?

by | Mar 22, 2022

News flash: Nonprofit organizations seldom have concrete goals, measurable outcomes or a precise strategic plan which can be relied upon by the donor to make safe, highly impactful and targeted gifts.

Only the tiniest percentage of donors can be sure their charitable gift hits the bulls-eye of philanthropic intent. If the donor cannot be exacting, what’s left?

Without realizing it, most donors give in the spirit of philanthropy. Most donors have a style of giving, what I call Giving Fingerprints.  It is a manner of accomplishing giving that feels right to him. It comes from the seat of her emotion, her character. Let’s call it the heart of giving.

Described as helping others in need, often called true charity; underwriting events to promote culture and make a better community; scholarships to ensure education and our futures through research. It is endless and bounded by only your imagination and the IRS code.

Young children have it, teenagers volunteer for it, parents demonstrate it, grandparents tell stories about it. Each has the heart of philanthropy in their own way.

Donors can be entrepreneurial or artistic in style; both can be serial in manner. Donors may want to be exacting but remember the newsflash.

In thirty-five plus years of experience, I have heard many promising ideas and talked with nonprofit staff and volunteers with reasonable track records. But they cannot tell us what exactly they will accomplish, how long change will take, or how much it will cost.

When I was an executive director, I couldn’t be specific, and now as I work with donors and foundations, I realize I was not alone.

The donor must always take the lead in being true to himself. With an individual style, he can hit the one bulls-eye that counts – the giving spirit – the heart of giving.

The entrepreneurial donor needs creativity, risk tolerance, and enthusiasm. She is optimistic, future-oriented, versatile, flexible and open-minded. The entrepreneurial donor finds projects to work on and partners with nonprofits. When the donor is no longer comfortable, she moves on to another nonprofit, another event. She thrives on being involved and intentional, working toward change.

The artistic donor connects to a cause, a nonprofit, an idea. They share a common goal and create solutions as with brush on a blank canvas. Results are a gamble, success distant. But there is a vision and the sense of being a part of reaching a shared goal, hope for success.

The artistic donor works at becoming skilled at a particular kind of giving. Like famous artists whose works we admire there is the sense of becoming better at it with each blank canvas. Over time the donor may become a master at philanthropy.

Entrepreneur and artist are most often serial in their giving, with a predictable behavior pattern. The entrepreneur starts over again and again, often with a completely new idea or cause. The entrepreneur is not afraid to be the first to fund, an early explorer embarking on new directions.

The artist starts over with a fresh canvas but tends to stick to the causes they know. The artist may look to the work of other donors to watch and learn, almost like an apprentice. The artist is not afraid to study a cause before investing in hope for change.

Are you an entrepreneur or an artist? Which one describes the heart of your giving?

The rest of the news story: Nonprofits need all kinds of donors. Communication is the key to creating the right kind of relationship that allows you to be true to your spirit of philanthropy.

Still curious about where you fit? Let’s have coffee, or tea for me, and talk about it.

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