Why Do Major Donors Give? Seven Different Reasons.

The Classic Typology of the Seven Faces of Philanthropy

“Major donors give because they want recognition. They want to see their name on that building on the campus.” Have you ever heard someone say that – or something like that? How about yourself? Have you ever said, “Major donors give because ______,” and then filled in the blank with a single item?

Well, there is no single reason why major donors give. There are seven.

We know this because of a well-designed, thorough, multi-year study conducted by two top-flight professionals, Russ Alan Prince and Karen Maru File. Their book, The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors, is a classic.

(BTW – Read the classics! I’ve told you this before, if you’ve been paying attention. If you missed it, go to Substack and rifle through my back issues.)

The seven kinds of philanthropists:

1. The Communitarian: Doing good makes sense. They give because it makes the community a better place. Usually this is a local businessperson who tends to give locally.

2. The Devout: Doing good is God’s will. They give because of their religious faith and its teachings. These philanthropists give over 90% of their donations to religious causes or institutions.

3. The Investor: Doing good is good business. They give with one eye on the cause and one eye on the tax code.

4. The Socialite: Doing good is fun. They enjoy organizing and participating in charity events. Philanthropy is knit together with their social lives.

5. The Altruist: Doing good feels right. They give from a sense of what is morally right and good. They often give anonymously, not seeking credit for themselves. These definitely do not want their name on that building on the campus.

6. The Repayer: Doing good as a way to “give back.” They are grateful to what their university gave to them, so they want to donate, in response. Or they are grateful for what medical science has done for someone they love, so they support it.

7. The Dynast: Doing good is a family tradition. They come from a wealthy family and want to carry on with that philanthropic heritage, though each generation tends to give in different directions.

This typology can be extremely valuable.

First, a nonprofit can assess the giving-motivation trends in its own family of major donors and gear its communication in the direction that clicks. It can shape its donor-relation program in the most meaningful and most effective way.

Second, this alerts a fundraiser to what they might face in a conversation with a major donor or a potential major donor. It allows them to listen with discernment and serve the donor well.

love, joy, peace … Michael

www.michaeljaffarian.com. Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation. emichaeljaffarian@gmail.com.

Vol. 1 No. 38