Mar 08

Changing the Logic on philanthropy


CTL philanthropyWhile attending an event at the London Stock Exchange (thankyou Rosa!) this morning for International Women’s Day I got to thinking about how we decide to donate. For years charitable giving was, for some, a power play. A way to show greater success combined with a benign attitude towards the needy. The Lady Bountiful model. Libraries and hospitals bearing the names of captains of industry. The restrained smile I used to see on people’s faces when they were able to throw a larger than normal donation onto the collecting plate. Arguably better than those transactions not taking place. And still a productive model in those countries where status matters – a diamond lapel pin showing how much you have donated worn with pride.
I suggest however that it is high time charities got to grips with a wider range of motivations to give. In a world where self actualisation is an ever rising trend. Where the clothes we wear, the postcode we choose, the companies we work for / buy from / follow / like are all part of our own personal brand… Then where are charities in the mix?
We see small glimmers of it. CND and Greenpeace and Amnesty International achieved this in the 80s. The rubber wrist band phase to some extent. Charity branded credit cards for a few years. Can it go deeper? Can supporting a charity (volunteering, championing, fundraising important here as well as donating) become an important part of my personal identity?
I considered this when LinkedIn added charitable activities to profiles. At first I hesitated. ‘They’ll all be after your money if you let on” – my dad’s words rang in my ears. “Don’t be such a show off” I heard from a long dead relative. “Blessed are the meek” whispered Mother Veronica from my schooldays. If I have these resistances, after a lifetime of tithing and volunteering, surely others do too?
So what to do?
If I were a charity I’d start by really exploring the motivations of existing donors. The awkward bits as well. Not the rational explanations we can all concoct at the drop of a hat to justify our actions, but the deeper drivers. The guilt, the shame, the hope, the thirst for change, the rage against injustice, the desire to be useful, the sense of personal achievement, the compensating behaviours… There will be many. It will be murky. But the value of this journey will be identifying some core characteristics that fundraisers can work with. Collaborating with their donors to make giving more satisfying. More self actualising.
Wouldn’t it be great if supporting your charity was part of someone’s identity rather than just a thing they did?

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