What is Philanthropy.
According to Wikipedia, Philanthropy means “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human”. It also states that “Instances of philanthropy commonly overlap with instances of charity, though not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa”.
There is sometimes a tendency to think that anonymous philanthropic acts hold more virtue because the donor did not seek or desire public praise for their generosity. While I will always respect a donor’s desire to keep their gift anonymous, it is sometimes worth probing into their motivations for doing so.
Each donor’s ego is a motivating factor in their choice to contribute to a cause to varying degrees. In some instances where they express a wish to remain anonymous, it is because they espouse the belief that it makes their gift nobler because they aren’t getting anything out of it. What donors such as these may not understand is that the charitable organization and the community as a whole also benefit from public recognition their contribution – it may motivate some to contribute similarly or inspire others to become more philanthropic.
Understanding The Donor’s Motivations
I have never heard of a donor ever answering ‘to feed my ego’, when asked why they chose to support an organization. Who is that self-aware and honest? But the truth is that, beyond believing in the cause and a genuine desire to do good, the donor’s ego invariably benefits from the gift. For those who are more secure about themselves, it will support their own belief that they are a good person and contributing to the greater social good. For those who are perhaps more insecure, the gift will help them gain confidence in their value and contribution and simultaneously, public praise for their gift will boost their ego.
As you steward your donors and develop a relationship with them, you may gain a more complete understanding of their motivations for supporting your cause and to what extent their ego has played a role. Through conversations with them, you may pick up on clues about how their charitable giving makes them feel about themselves.
Removing The Stigma Of Public Praise
No one wants to be perceived as seeking praise or appearing to be bragging about his or her charitable contributions. It behooves us, as fundraising professionals, to make it clear to our donors that we do not see public recognition as an obligation arising from the gift transaction, the way that issuing a tax receipt is. In fact, it is our desire to shout the praises of their gift from the rooftops, because we know that generosity begets generosity. If public recognition is positioned as a way to inspire other people like them to contribute, it may assuage the donor’s feeling of being boastful of their largesse.