Dani Robbins

I am a Philanthropist; You May Be Too

In Leadership, Resource Development on May 14, 2015 at 6:51 am

I am a philanthropist. I’m a small fry philanthropist but I’m still a philanthropist! If you’ve ever given a gift to a charity, you are too.

Not counting the hundreds of written solicitations I have received, twice in my life I’ve been formally asked for a gift. The first time was when the Women’s Endowment Fund in Akron, Ohio was trying to get the fund to a million dollars. One of their board members, Janet Kendall White, asked me to lunch. She told me that I didn’t have to be a large donor to be a philanthropist; that each of us could be one. She explained that I could be a thousand dollar donor by giving $62.50 a quarter for four years. Well, I could do that! Poof, I became a philanthropist!

The second time I was formally asked for a gift was by Michelle Moskowitz Brown of Local Matters. Local Matters is one of my clients and I’ve been working with them so long that several of their leaders, including Michele, are now also my friends. I consistently support them. They consistently support me. It’s a lovely symbiotic relationship. It’s also the kind of relationship that an agency might take for granted, but they never do.

I get formally solicited. I receive a variety of written communication. I get update calls from Michelle. I get invited to events. I’m not one of their bigger donors, but that doesn’t stop them from treating me like I am. That kind of treatment makes me want to support them even more!

The topic of this month’s nonprofit blog carnival is “You are The Future of Philanthropy.” You are, and the decisions you make as to how to cultivate, engage and steward your donors will separate the good from the great, the funded from the struggling and the successful from the not so much.

You are the future of philanthropy because our field’s success is up to you, and also to me, and to Michelle and to our Boards, our leaders and all of us, individually and collectively.

I facilitated a Resource Development training last week and was struck once again by a statistic I was taught about donor preference when working with Boys & Girls Clubs of America: “65% said exposure, interaction, and face time mattered the most.” 65% of donors when asked about their preferences didn’t mention the mission, the program, or its impact; they mentioned three words that are all synonyms for engagement.

Who ensures engagement? You do. Who is the Future of Philanthropy? You are.

There are millions of nonprofits. There are millions more donors that support them. There is increased competition for donations, staff and resources and also increased needs in our communities. There are increased opportunities for engagement.

There is also cool new technology, spawning new ideas to encourage millions of donors to give millions of dollars. The Columbus Foundation just finished The Big Give, which raised just over $15 Million in 24 hours. If you’re not familiar with this “philanthropic phenomenon,” the Foundation’s donors and partners put up a $1.4 million bonus pool, the community donates and each donation received during The Big Give was “eligible for bonus pool funds on a pro rata basis, giving everyone who participated the opportunity to have their donation(s) amplified. In addition, all credit card fees were covered by The Columbus Foundation, so 100 percent of donations went directly to the nonprofits.” It’s awesome!

Before the internet there was no system on earth that, in 24 hours, could have processed $15 million of gifts from 19,902 individuals from each of the 50 states to support 587 Central Ohio agencies. Technology made it possible; a different kind of thinking made it happen.

How did agencies use the Big Give to build engagement? Many of them sent emails. I got dozens. I also got one request – from Local Matters – to be a twitter ambassador. Michelle then called me and formally asked for my support.

Did I give an additional gift through the Big Give to Local Matters? Of course I did! I also gave gifts to a few of my other favorite charities. And I tweeted about all of it. Why? Because I was asked to! When I was taught that statistic by BGCA, I was also taught another: people give because they’re asked. It’s so obvious and so simple. Engage. Ask. Receive. Thank. Repeat.

I’m the future of philanthropy. You are the future of philanthropy. We have the internet and brilliant minds around our tables. Let’s raise some money! Let’s change the world!

Does your community do something similar to the Big Give? Have you introduced a new fund raising idea that exceeded your wildest expectations? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.

  1. […] future of philanthropy and can all be philanthropists. New technology brings new opportunities yet relationship building still rules the day.  Engage. Ask. Receive. […]


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