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Inside a Donor's Head

Picture this: a scruffy man is seated on the sidewalk next to a busy expressway. He has been loading empty beer cans into a plastic bag. After loading four of the cans, the bag breaks open and one of the cans rolls out. And then another.

The man starts yelling profanities as he begins to reload cans into the top. I witnessed this incident from across a parking lot several weeks ago What I saw next was another man offering the poor soul his spare plastic bag. I thought about my own reaction. In short, I didn’t want to get involved. I’ve had bags break on me before, so I know how maddening that can be.

The good Samaritan then spends some time with the man who is still muttering under his breath about his bad fortune. Finally, begins to calm down. Suddenly, surprisingly, the two men shake hands.

I got into my car and began to drive away. As I did, I took one last look at the “bag man” who was now walking toward downtown.

My reason for telling you this story is because I think it’s an example of what philanthropy is all about. When you think about it, what the good Samaritan did was philanthropic, wasn’t it?

What about your philanthropic process?

  • There was a Need--a man with a plastic bag that had a hole in it.

  • A Solution—the other man had a bag he wasn’t using.

  • Reason Not to Act—Fear. The stranger was bigger and angry.

  • Stronger Reason to Act—To help the disgruntled man out.

  • Proceed Cautiously—Giving up the bag was easy, though a little scary.

  • Satisfaction—The experience of seeing the transformation made by a simple gift.

If you’ve been in the fundraising/philanthropy field for any length of time, you know that donors and prospects want to know about what they can do help the needs of those less fortunate, and that their gifts matter.

Start exploring your philanthropic experiences-not just from the end results, but the steps you took before you gave. I’ll bet that when you do, you’ll gain new insights to help people give more to your nonprofit.

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