Personalized Giving

by Ronit Dolev

“Philanthropy translates the private desires of donors into public action aims at meeting needs. It has both public and private functions, enabling communities to solve problems and allowing individuals to express and enact their values. What makes philanthropy at once exciting and perplexing is the strange and at times jarring interaction of public needs and private choices that giving promotes”

Prof. Peter Frumkin, Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy (p. 21).

And never has philanthropy been more exciting or perplexing in Frumkin’s own words. With globalization and increasing emphasis on individual choice and control, gone are the days where large institutions can support themselves only from large, undesignated sums. While the importance of mega-donors and community organizations are not to be negating – and they will continue to play a critical role – the rules of the games have changed. Tomorrow’s donors are disinclined towards mediation and instead prefer to make an independent decision where and how much to give. They wish to create their own philanthropic agenda. With small, very-directed giving, together these new donors have more power than ever and represent the future. To fully engage potential givers in any way, organizations must seek new ways to make broad needs personal and to engage a greater number of small to medium donors.

Today the Internet is the critical space. All aspects of life are lived there – from social to the professional and from the financial to the cultural. Philanthropy too has moved online and millions of dollars are raised via the web globally. The challenge to reframe public needs so that they match private choices has never been more important – or more challenging. Organizations that want to be successful in capitalizing on the new philanthropic opportunities must create personal giving experiences for donors in the most anonymous settings possible – the Internet.

Some insights into what these new donors are looking for:

  • To make educated decisions – donors need the ability to access to information and be able to compare before they choose a project to support.
  • A secure and trust-worthy cause. Trust plays a critical role and outside vetting, due diligence and rating services provide additional benefits.
  • Assurance that their giving makes a difference. A small donation may not cover all project needs but it can pay for something they can identify with.
  • Alternative ways to impact social change. Giving can take more than one form – donating is one but volunteering is not less important and in many cases more personal.
  • Places to network. People seek ways to connect with others that share the same passion for the same cause.
  • Tools to invite others to join them in supporting the same social cause. While online giving is not about solicitation it is about friends inviting friend to join in support a cause they wish to promote.
  • Meaningful and substantive gift options. For life cycle events and holidays, donors want to give as a gift or in honor of someone dear, or in memory of a loved one. Integration into online identities by announcing their support in a blog, posting it on facebook or twitter, etc.
  • Appreciation without the harassment. Donors do not want phone calls and meetings but appreciate thank you letters, progress reports, blogs, and newsletters even if they may not read them all. It gives a sense of connection and allows them to see the impact of a gift.
  • The ability to donate anonymously.

I have mentioned few key ways to make online giving personal but there are many more. It is a virally growing industry.

Ronit Dolev is a co-founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of JGooders, on whose site you can find many key ways to make online giving personal. Stay tuned for an updated version of the site incorporating additional ways for donor personalization.