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High Value Giving: Everything you ever wanted to know

Published by Chris Carnie on

Chris Carnie and Sophie Vossenaar are leading the Masterclass on “Everything you ever wanted to know about High Value Donors” at IFC 2019. Find out more and book your place here.

The words

Imagine. You are a wealthy individual, someone who has built a growth business from scratch, who has made many sacrifices for ambition and family.

You are thinking about making a gift to help out in a natural emergency…

…and suddenly you are called a ‘major donor’.

These aren’t words you would attach to yourself. You are not Warren Buffett.

Just a regular person who has been in the right place at the right time, has known how to make the most of her situation, and has ended up wealthy.

You might also feel that ‘donor’ does not really crack it. Yes, you want to give., but above all you want to help.

To get involved, to use your expertise, maybe involve some of your friends.

You know stuff – you have learned a lot in your years in business – and you’d like to apply that knowledge to help others. Not just a ‘major donor’, then.

Let’s start with the words, and the ideas that go behind them; 

People of wealth are often

  • Investors
  • Managers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Owners

Many people of wealth have

  • Influence
  • A media profile
  • Experience
  • Know how
  • Know who

These are all assets, experiences, knowledge that you could use in your organisation.

Any of them could help your organisation to achieve its strategic goals, beyond the simple requirement to raise funds.

It is time to change the words. We need to move from thinking of “major donors” to thinking of “strategic donors”, or “strategic investors”.

And that simple change carries with it several implications.

We’ll talk about some of these in the Masterclass at IFC 2019, but just to give one example; if you are able to link your organisation to someone who can help you achieve a major strategic goal, maybe you need to be more closely involved in setting those goals.

The people

You will have heard it said often enough; there is a new generation of people entering philanthropy. They are as varied as any other generation, as varied as you and me.

Just like you and me, in the process of deciding to make a donation they have people in their lives who are influencers – family, friends, a colleague…

And just like you and me they have barriers and objections that might turn a possible gift into a ‘no’, such as a lack of trust in the NGO or organisation, or the feeling that they are not going to get the impact they seek.

But people of wealth have influencers that you and I don’t. The private banks in Europe are becoming increasingly influential in decisions about philanthropy.

These banks – household names like BNP, Rabobank and CaixaBank, but also private-wealth specialists such as Coutts – are building teams of philanthropy advisers. Some, such as UBS, have created foundations through which their private clients can channel their charitable giving.

The market, in other words, is becoming more complex. It’s no longer good enough to create just one value proposition for your new campaign: you are going to have to make the case to the strategic donor-investor, but also to her private banker, or the manager of her Family Office. 

How was it, for you?

Which leads us to a third point about fundraising from strategic donors, and one that we’ll be discussing in depth in our Masterclass [LINK]; customer service.

With the entry of the private banks in the sector, we face stiff competition.

The banks are well resourced, have great connections, offer an array of useful services, and have something we can’t have; intimate knowledge of their client’s financial position, and her giving.

Interviewing a philanthropy adviser in a leading bank recently, he reminded me that he can see, in the client’s bank accounts, exactly which organisations she is supporting.

Knowledge that you and I don’t have, but that is very useful when the private banker is discussing philanthropy with his client.

The banks that specialise in wealth management, focus intense effort on customer relationship management. Famously, they will hop on a plane to Singapore if that’s where their client insists on meeting them.

I’m not suggesting that you load your travel budget with business-class trips to Singapore. But we will all have to up our game, if we are to approach the levels of service offered by the private banks.

Luckily, we have stuff that the private banks don’t, and that is aligned with our mission: visiting a beneficiary family is an NGO example, as is a meeting with a specialist curator in our museum, or meeting the first violin, who has received the donor’s scholarship, if we are fundraising for an orchestra. 

The Impact on Structure and Strategy

Think through the implications of these points, and you may conclude that structure, and strategy, must change at your organisation.

Structure, because you need power.

Power in your organisation to seriously involve a strategic investor in strategic development; not just a few words of advice, but a seat at the strategy table.

Power, because your value proposition could mean developing a whole new project, such as an investable social enterprise.

And power, to require a colleague to join you in Paris next week for an important donor meeting.

Too many ‘major donor’ fundraisers are left to sink or swim, without the power they need to thrive.

Your strategy might need a re-work because your market is evolving fast, especially if you are based in Europe.

The changes described here, and especially the entry of private banks in our market, could mean that a serious review is needed.

Love your job

If you are working with strategic donors and investors, with philanthropists, then you are working in the most exciting, challenging, thought-provoking area of fundraising.

You are working in a fast-changing market, with a new generation of philanthropists who seek something different from their parents and grandparents.

That ‘something different’ might be putting a strain on your structure, and new demands on you and your colleagues.

You will be using all of your wits, your skills and your senses to develop meaningful added value for your client-donors. 

Enjoy the moment; it’s wonderful!

Chris Carnie and Sophie Vossenaar are leading the Masterclass on “Everything you ever wanted to know about High Value Donors” at IFC 2019. Find out more and book your place here.

Chris is the co-founder of www.factary.com, and the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, Policy Press, Bristol 2017.

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Chris Carnie

Chris Carnie

Chris Carnie is founder of Factary, www.factary.com. He is a researcher and consultant in high-value philanthropy – major donors and foundations. Chris lives in Catalonia and works across Europe with NGOs, universities, cultural organisations, foundations and philanthropists. He teaches the Postgraduate Certificate in Fundraising at the University of Barcelona and is the author of various books.

1 Comment

Simona Biancu · July 31, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Finally I was able to read your inspiring blogpost, Chris. I am not sure I could be at your Masterclass but I will certainly be at IFC and hope to have the opportunity to discuss about these topics there.
I totally agree with your perspective about working with strategic donors, which is highly challenging and often questions one’s (our, I mean) assumptions.
In the last months I have been working on what it has been called a “philanthropic roundtable”, that put together a panel of philanthropists, academics, a nonprofit organization and a bank strongly involved in philanthropy advisory. It was born as a 3 or 4-meeting table of discussion and soon turned into something more stable and strategic for all those at the table. We are going to present some output in October at a national event (in Italy) focused on CSR, maybe we can talk again about that.

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