One Size Doesn’t Fit All….

January 11, 2016 Ann Shulman Your Brain on Philanthropy

There’s a great book, The Seven Faces of Philanthropy (Jossey-Bass) that describes seven basic “philanthropic personalities.” While this book is most often used to help fundraisers to appeal to prospective donors, it’s also a great way to think about your own giving preferences – what motivates you? What makes your donor dollars tick?

These are the seven philanthropic types described in the book, with approximate breakdowns among the donor community:

  • Communitarians – “Doing good makes sense” (26%)
    The largest philanthropic group, Communitarians want to give back to their communities because it makes sense to improve the quality of life where they live, and because it is fair and just to give locally.
  • Devout – “Doing good is God’s will” (21%)
    The second largest group, the Devout, believe that giving is a religious act and that being philanthropic is an integral part of their religious practices. The Devout give because it is a moral obligation.
  • Investors – “Doing good is good business” (15%)
    Investors seek to benefit society while giving in a businesslike way. They apply the same careful analysis to their giving as they do to investing and tend to view their contributions as investments in the non-profits they support.
  • Socialites – “Doing good is fun” (11%)
    This giving personality likes to engage in social functions to benefit charities and to enjoy the legitimacy that fund-raising gives to events. Socialites create and participate in enjoyable ways to give.
  • Re-payers – “Doing good in return” (10%)
    Re-payers concentrate their giving on organizations from which they have benefitted personally, such as hospitals and schools. They give out of gratitude and because they believe the wealthy have a special responsibility to give back in return.
  • Altruists – “Doing good feels right” (9%)
    Altruists give because doing good feels right and gives their lives a greater sense of purpose. They associate their philanthropy with personal fulfillment, and many believe that giving is a moral imperative associated with spiritual development.
  • Dynasts – “Doing good is a family tradition” (8%)
    For Dynasts, philanthropy was learned at home and was an integral part of their childhood socialization. Dynasts believe that philanthropy is everyone’s responsibility and have a high internal motivation to give.

Q: Do you see yourself fitting into any of these giving categories, or perhaps a combination of them?

Q: If not, how would you describe what motivates you to give?

Q: Most important, do your philanthropic choices currently match your giving style?

As a philanthropic advisor for over twenty years, Ann Shulman has helped hundreds of individual donors, families and foundations of all sizes meet their personal and organizational philanthropic goals.