Monday, December 26, 2011

Faces: Seven giving personalities

What drives someone to give? There are many ways to answer that question, many frameworks to help us understand donor motivations. While can find value in any of those perspectives, one - The Seven Faces of Philanthropy - has always resonated deeply for me.

A good friend and mentor introduced me to Faces during my tenure as a University of Wyoming development officer. It clicked for two reasons: one, its seven giving personalities offer more nuanced layers to donor motivations; and two, I easily recognized myself, and other donors I'd encountered, in those personalities.  

Like too many of the resources I want to share with readers, Faces has not historically drawn the interest and visibility needed to make it easily accessible to practitioner audiences. It's gotten better (as I was updating my links this morning, I found and bookmarked several new descriptions, generally posted on blogs). But putting it into the hands of nonprofit staff and volunteers, who would actually use it, doesn't seem to have been a high priority. That's one major motivator for me in writing this post.

Before I introduce the Faces, let me offer a bit of detail about the research underlying the framework:
  • It is based on a study by Russ Prince, a consultant, and Karen File, a University of Connecticut faculty member.
  • Study included quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus groups and interviews) elements.
  • Target for this study was the "affluent individual donor," defined as someone with $1 million or more in a "discretionary investment advisory account," who contributed at least $50,00 to a single nonprofit in the two years preceding the study.
I'll discuss my thoughts about legitimate and not-so-legitimate (at least from a research standpoint) applications of the framework in a bonus post on Wednesday. In the spirit of not making this post any longer than necessary, I'll dive right in and introduce you to each Face.

The Communitarian ("Doing good makes sense"). This person generally is a local business owner, often a member of your board (or a peer of your business community board members). The Communitarian views philanthropy as an important part of supporting and enhancing the entire community. In Prince and File's research, this Face represented the largest group, 26.3 percent of the participant pool.

Some additional detail on Communitarians: they want to give something back to the community, they are active in local affairs, and they understand that nonprofits have a place in meeting community needs, filling in the gaps that government cannot (and should not) address. They are members of local service organizations, like Rotary and Soroptimsts. There is some sense that giving is in their own self interest. Therefore, they research prospective nonprofits carefully.

 The Devout ("Doing good is God's will"). As the name and Prince and File's subtitle suggest, this donor sees giving as part of his/her duty to God and a commandment to help others. They are almost always members of religious communities, and nearly all of their contributions go to their churches or other religious institutions. The Devout represented 20.9 percent of the study pool.

More about the Devout: they have deeply religious reasons for giving - it's sharing what God has provided to them. Their gifts pay that forward. Giving is based on their belief system, a "sign of spiritual development and maturity." Because of that foundation in personal and spiritual beliefs, the Devout tend to focus giving on a relatively narrow set of organizations with values that match their own. Because giving should be a "pure" act, the Devout frowns upon donors who act with other motivations in mind. They also see nonprofits as better equipped than government to make the right decisions and serve more effectively.

The Investor ("Doing good is good business,"). Prince and File describe this donor as giving "with one eye on the nonprofit cause and one eye on personal tax and estate consequence." A primary factor for this donor comes in the form of tax and estate benefits. They are particularly attracted to umbrella organizations that provide an additional layer of accountability (e.g., community foundations or United Way). This donor represented 15.3 percent of the study pool.

The Investor finds tax deductions to be very attractive. Like the previous two Faces, the Investor sees the nonprofit sector as more trustworthy than government; but both sectors are worthy of skepticism from this donor. Because of that skepticism, they evaluate carefully potential beneficiaries. Those that are professionally administered, with the right leaders and structures in place, will be most likely to receive an Investor gift. Investors focus on the act of giving, but they aren't concerned about the motivation behind the act. One of the quickest ways to turn off the Investor is to state or imply a duty to give.

The Socialite ("Doing good is fun"). This person is well connected, through local social networks. Their giving is driven by those connections and the opportunity to interact - with their networks and with a select set of nonprofits that they support (often a mix of arts, education and religious organizations). They won't volunteer for the day-to-day work, but they'll help organize your fundraiser and invite their friends. The Socialite accounted for 10.8 percent of Prince and File's major donor pool.

Socialites cherish their informal networks, usually filled with people (and givers) much like themselves. A strong endorsement from a well-connected Socialite means a lot. Philanthropy is an extension of their personality; giving is an expression of personal identity. They want to know that you're doing good work with the fruits of their labors (and will turn on you if you prove yourself unworthy. You don't want that negative word-of-mouth.). They don't particularly care what others think of their motivations, and they respect others' rights to not give. Socialites work hard for you, and they expect you to recognize that effort.

 The Altruist ("Doing good feels right"). If a "selfless" donor is possible, this would be the giving personality behind it. Altruists give from a generous and empathetic place. They see giving as a moral act, part of their personal development. They act on their gut in giving, not relying on others to direct them to the "right" organization. More than others, the Altruist is attracted to social causes and the nonprofits that advance them. Nine percent of the original pool could be classified as Altruist.

The Altruist's motivations lie pretty much in direct opposition to the Socialite's.  They are more likely to request anonymity, or to take offense at excessive formal recognition of their contributions. They are more likely to see giving to be a moral (though not religious) obligation, one that falls more heavily on the shoulders of the wealthy. They are deeply offended by motivations that are not "selfless." That applies to individual donors and to government - nonprofits are better able to address social needs. They judge the people of an organization more than the structure.

The Repayer ("Doing good in return"). Our relationship with the Repayer is an ongoing one, and it didn't start in the development office. This person was a constituent first - a patient, a student, a program participant. His/her status as a donor is the next phase of that relationship. The Repayer gives out of appreciation/loyalty or obligation. It should not surprise you to find out that the primary beneficiaries of the Repayer's giving in Prince and File's study were either medical organizations or educational institutions. The represented 10.2 percent of major donors in the study.

In some respects, engaging the Repayer should be a fairly straightforward process. They know you, they know your work, and they are grateful (in varying degrees) for your previous support.  That doesn't mean that you skip relationship building, though. Some relationships begin relatively early in the donor's life (e.g., immediately after graduation - or sooner). Others come later (e.g., following a medical crisis). In each case, the relationship you build is grounded in the quality of service that your organization provided in the past. Repayers don't need outside advisers to help them evaluate your worthiness. They want you to value their contributions, but they don't want you to take your eyes off current service recipients while you're recognizing them.

The Dynast ("Doing good is a family tradition"). In Prince and File's study, this donor was most likely to have inherited two things: wealth and a culture where giving is part of the family's identity. Both are passed down from one generation to another. What might differ, though, was the focus of that giving. A younger generation could set itself apart from its parents and grandparents, and make its own mark, by identifying and supporting different causes and organizations than those who came before them. Dynasts represented 8.3 percent of the study pool.

You may be surprised to learn that one finding from Prince and File's research is the Dynast's openness to supporting a range of nonprofits, including some that considered outside of the mainstream (I'm having a major "aha" moment as I rediscover this one - and thinking about my favorite Dynast donor role model.). Motivations come from within and are more important to the Dynast than the act itself. Charity is an internalized value. They have little need for validation from others. Because they are the frequent targets of fundraisers and organizations, they necessarily take care in ensuring that those who receive their support are worthy of it. They want to know that you make a difference.

This post is already far too long, because I wanted to give you a more detailed picture of each Face than most available online resources provide. I'll discuss the framework, and my experiences with it, in Wednesday's bonus.

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