Generosity or Philanthropy

January 24, 2020

I have been reading Lynne Wester‘s book, T-Rexes and Kangaroos with great interest. It is an easy read and has some really profound thoughts on fundraising and mindsets. She speaks of an exercise where you imagine a ‘philanthropist’ and then you imagine a person that is ‘generous’. She (rightfully) contends that you pictured two different people.

Fundraisers always speak of philanthropy (even that word conjures up images of well-heeled individuals). Wester suggests that we think of people’s generosity. People can be generous with respect to their time, their talents and their treasure. I wrote of fundraiser’s mindsets here.

To be perfectly honest, I find that we (as a society) spend way too much time focussing on nomenclature. Philanthropist or a Generous Person is just one example. I have often lamented that I really dislike titles and, by extension, pigeon-holing folks. For instance, I would rather call my team colleagues (as I do) than the Manager of ABC or XYZ Officer. Similarly, I would rather call donors, volunteers and sponsors partners or stakeholders. And don’t even get me started on the title Major Gifts Officer — that ought to have donors running for the hills!

So now what?

Wester’s takeaway is that we need to have the mindset of inclusion in terms of donor relations. How do we relate to the donors? How can each of us (the fundraising professionals) celebrate what these stakeholders bring to our organization every day? Wester reiterates the difference between stewardship and donor relations (one that I had not yet fully appreciated). And, even though I am not a title guy (as referenced earlier), I will be looking into re-titling one of my team members.

As a possible result of reading this book, coupled with some other insights from others, I have made a commitment to myself (but if I am writing it in a blog, then I guess it’s public) to an open my mind and to not be so steadfast in my thinking. Looking at different concepts or different ways of looking at things will be the name of the game. I’m hoping it will bring me both new experiences and a heightened appreciation for what I already do. My friend Maryann Kerr calls this “continuous improvement”.