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A Peek at the Philanthropist’s Playbook

Resource Center - Foundation

(Jan. 26, 2010) More and more, high net worth donors are not looking for a cause to support (they have that already), they are looking for an organization that does great work.

Sean Stannard-Stockton, founder of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, told eWire this week that his advice to wealthy clients is to look closer. How does the organization advance its mission? How does it measure success? How does it adapt with challenges or mistakes? In turn, nonprofits need to be ready with that information. "You don't need to convince me that your cause is worthy of a major gift, convince me that your organization is worthy," he says.

The fundraising relief efforts for Haiti are bringing this issue to the forefront, Sean says. Donors are becoming more aware that you need to focus on outcomes and results. "While high net worth donors are not necessarily looking for quantitative proof and data (which is often very difficult for nonprofits to provide), they do want clear answers: What do you do? Why do you do it? And how do you know it is going well?" he explains.

Your Website Matters

He says it is critically important for your organization to set itself apart on its website. Inform donors of your strategies, your particular programs and your method of measuring success. Give donors a window into the way you turn a donation into real benefit for others. Tell stories that get to the core of what your organization accomplishes. "Authentic stories get to the heart of what defines your organization. An authentic story isn't a fairytale, it is an important way to make sense of complex information."

Sean adds that the donors he advises are becoming more strategic in their giving--and so require accessible information. "Donor advising is proactive. We seek out charities, rather than waiting for them to ask for donation. Therefore, the most effective strategy is to give the donor a place to find the desired facts--your website. It is not effective to call me, the philanthropy adviser, asking me to sell your organization to my client."

Making a Lasting Difference

Another new trend with high net worth donors is the desire to make gifts that keep having an impact over time. Demonstrate to your major gift donors that their money will help build a lasting organization with ongoing programs. "Donors want to know that their gift will set things into motion, rather than simply help for one moment in time," he says. Like the old saying, donors do not want to offer someone a single meal, they want to teach that person how to fish.

As philanthropy and financial advisers work to make high net worth individuals more informed and effective donors, what is your organization doing to stand out? Can a high net worth philanthropist find their answers online today, or must they wait for you to call?

You can read more about smart giving in response to the Haiti earthquake on Sean's blog.

Sean Stannard-Stockton is the founder of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, a full-service advisory firm serving high net worth donors. Sean is a former columnist for the Financial Times, a current columnist for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and author of the influential blog, Tactical Philanthropy.

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