Teaching Philanthropy

Tonya Taylor and Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Tonya Taylor and Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Recently The Wall Street Journal published an article titled "How to Raise Your Child to Be a Philanthropist." A panel of experts gave feedback on the role of parents in instilling philanthropic values in their children from a young age, citing the particular importance of showing that no matter how little you have, there is always room to give. 

Parents, however, are not the only ones with the responsibility of teaching philanthropy. In fundraising, we often first turn to the known donors, the ones with easy-to-research giving histories and patterns we can analyze and prepare for. But what happens when these donors have been already asked, or more likely, already asked 17 times for different projects in your organization? That is when fundraisers have the opportunity to teach philanthropy, to find the people in their audience who have never thought about giving and emphasize the importance of giving back. 

In higher education development, we often see this with students and young alumni - often overlooked in initial rounds of fundraising because they don't have giving histories that make them ideal targets - but full of potential to build a culture of philanthropy. By spending time with these donors, targeting your messaging in a way that is less about the size of the gift and more about the impact of participation, development officers can play a significant role in building the next generation of major donors. 

While no one can replace the impact of a parent's role in philanthropy, it is also important to remember that one's education does not end the moment they turn 18 and leave the house. Everyone who interacts with a potential donor, no matter their age, has the opportunity to be a teacher.