Monday, June 15, 2009

Charities Should Nurture Donors' Passion for Giving

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By: Sean Stannard-Stockton

In his book, Strategic Giving, Peter Frumkin, a philanthropy scholar at the University of Texas, argued that five elements drive people to give a large share of their money away: change, innovation, equity, pluralism, and self-expression.

At big foundations, self-expression is rarely on the agenda. In most cases, it would be wrong for foundation employees or board members to think of grant making as their own personal self-expression,

But for individuals, self-expression is a vital part of giving. You cannot understand, or influence, a donor's wish to encourage economic equity or pluralism without recognizing the way that such grants are inextricably linked to the donor's self-image.

That can be a tricky proposition because Americans tend to think that "good" philanthropy requires sacrifice. Donors, our culture tells us, should not benefit from their giving. Giving is supposed to be motivated by a donor's selfless desire to help others, and so the idea that a donor may use philanthropy as a form of self-expression seems to reduce the nobility of their gift.

If we ever expect to persuade more individuals to become effective philanthropists, the first step is to break the notion that philanthropy must entail sacrifice. Instead donors need to be encouraged to think about how professionals in many walks of life start with a passion and talent, and then train themselves in the skills they need to excel in the tasks they love. We don't discount a musician's performance because he clearly loves playing or an athlete's accomplishment because she loves sport. So too must the passion for giving become linked with a desire to learn how to do it as well as possible.

Read the full article here.

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