Philanthropic giving is becoming an increasingly important economic force around the world. A recent published article explains how brain scans show people are happier by simply thinking about making a donation to help others. The article went on to say, this happens because thoughts of helping activate the area in the brain that is associated with happiness — the mesolimbic pathway. This, in turn releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s centers for reward and pleasure.
The U.S. has an outstanding tradition of philanthropy– a tradition that is rooted in our frontier history. It has become a powerful force in our society, but the challenges are great, particularly during an economic downturn that has dampened contributions even as the demand for services escalates. In the book, Getting to Giving: Fundraising the Entrepreneurial Way, published in 2011, by Howard H. Stevenson and Shirley Spence, both authors detail an approach to fundraising that is almost “Zen-like in its philosophy”, even as it offers plenty of concrete, detailed advice on what it takes to be a successful fundraiser.
For example, in the book’s introduction Stevenson writes, “For me, fundraising is a personal thing. It gives me an opportunity to change my world view in a positive way. Just as my charitable giving makes visible those values or issues I care about, so do my fundraising activities. This is critically important. As a fundraising leader, you need to feel a personal commitment to the cause and the organization that you choose to support and promote. Not only will you be more effective, but you also will derive much greater satisfaction from your work. Logically, then, the question becomes: How do you want to change the world?“
In addition to talking about his personal fundraising experience, Stevenson discusses how him and co-author, Shirley Spence have looked at what’s going on in the contemporary world of philanthropy by scrutinizing a wide range of institutions and individuals for fundraising dos and don’ts. Additionally, they have solicited input from experienced volunteer and professional fundraisers, as well as interviewing several philanthropic individuals they know, probing for the donor’s perspective. As both authors reflect on that, they have tried to extract the essence of effective fundraising. This research process has reinforced their belief in taking the donor’s perspective. Asking and answering some critical donor questions– aimed at successfully making your case for a significant gift– has become the core of their book. The authors have settled on the following four questions that a donor must implicitly say “yes” to, about an organization and cause:
- Are you doing important work?
- Are you well managed?
- Will my gift make a difference?
- Will the experience be satisfied to me?
Stevenson’s deep understanding of organizations and human motivation have contributed to his success as a fundraiser within a variety of institutions, large and small, and he shares his wisdom in the book, Getting to Giving: Fundraising the Entrepreneurial Way. The message is clear: real success as an entrepreneurial fundraiser lies in identifying the challenges and unique opportunities presented by potential donors. This approach emphasizes the cultivation of donor-partners in ways that bring major gifts and extraordinary personal satisfaction. The book is a valuable read for donors hoping to refine their giving strategy. Additionally, Board members and CEOs of nonprofits who want to establish a more effective development function should read-and share-this essential guide to fundraising leadership in the 21st century.