The “How” vs “Why” Debate

June 23, 2017

I touched on this subject in one of my earlier articles, but I think it is worth exploring a bit further. So many fundraisers focus on the how to donate (especially in the deferred giving arena) by explaining such methodologies as transferring appreciated securities, how to leave a bequest and even explaining Flow-Through Funds. There is no mention of the why.

By doing that, there is a major assumption that the donor has already decided to support your organization. And that is a pretty big assumption to rely on. What I would contend is that the time (and precious literature space) is much better used by addressing the issue of why a donor would support the charity in the first place.

Donating is an emotional act. People do it with their hearts — whether they wish to change the world through your organization or whether they wish to impact some small thing, it is an emotional (and sometimes even impulsive) act.

How someone donates is purely a cerebral activity. Whether it is transferring appreciated securities, signing up for monthly donations or setting up a Charitable Remainder Trust, these are all modalities that people do with their heads.

If you were to ask a bunch of donors for reasons why they donate, you would not surprisingly, find a myriad of answers. Somewhere near the top would be helping, emotional satisfaction and connection. Somewhere near the bottom (if at all) would be for tax reasons — the how of the gift.

Interestingly enough, one of the first capital campaigns I ran was at a church in Hamilton. There was a parishioner who would put a crisp $100 bill on the collection plate every Sunday. This struck me as very peculiar and the entire parish knew who this gentleman was. When I asked him why he put cash on the plate and didn’t write a cheque or use the envelope system (and thereby receive a charitable tax receipt), he answered that donating was between him and his maker — he wasn’t motivated in the least by tax mitigation.

I am off to the UK next week for a couple of weeks, so there will not be any articles posted (by me). Instead, I urge you (on Fridays, at a minimum) to pour yourself a nice single malt and enjoy the beginning of summer.