Article menu>>

Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

Fostering the habit of giving

examiner logo
Saturday, September 24, 2011

Independence, MO – I’ve come to a conclusion after 20 years as a professional fundraiser: We all give differently.

Some volunteer time. Others offer skills. Many give money.

And there’s an even subtler distinction. How and why we give, more than what we offer, truly marks us.

My kids provide three great examples of our unique ways of giving. (Sorry, guys – you’re easy targets.)

Tom is our doer of good deeds, and he thrives on the praise they yield. He’s (mostly) an extremely thoughtful giver, going out of his way to do helpful things for those he loves. But Tom can change in a flash if things stop going his way, a shortcoming (hopefully fleeting) I’m attributing to his brief eight years.

Maggie, who’s nonplused by the attention her creative philanthropy yields, gives many things artistic. Her drawings hang in frames on our and others’ walls, and her poems and songs overflow desks in our family room and her bedroom. Like Kate, Maggie was born to champion the underdog.

Then there’s Joe, who doesn’t initially strike you as the generous type. Like his mom, he prefers helping others anonymously. Truth is, we have to keep the keenest eye on the quiet philanthropy of our oldest child, who’s given clothes to friends who needed them and shared his allowance with buddies who otherwise would have gone without lunch.

I’ve also been thinking about why people give to the 250 nonprofits Hartsook serves and countless others around the world. Their gifts’ size and types vary dramatically, but their motives are remarkably similar.

Some organizations, like the University of Missouri-Kansas City, thrive on their ability to attract mega-gifts like the $32 million Henry Bloch recently gave to build a new Henry W. Bloch School of Management. Others, like Community Services League, rely on all types of philanthropy – donated goods, services and dollars – to deliver their missions. The Community of Christ’s success springs from the time individuals give their congregations and those they serve.

Experience has long told fundraisers that involvement – the three organizations’ common denominator – leads to investment. Now there’s research to prove it. The 2010 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Donors, which was conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, revealed that individuals who volunteer at a nonprofit at least 200 hours a year are significantly more likely to give to it than those who volunteer less.

It’s no wonder Henry Bloch gave UMKC $32 million. Or that some of Community Services League’s best volunteers are its best donors. Or that those who provide ministry in Community of Christ congregations are often its greatest financial supporters.

It also should come as no surprise that Joe chose Christ United Methodist Church’s youth area as the beneficiary of his Eagle Scout service project. He laid carpet squares on the stage in The Place, where he spends at least five hours a week playing drums and piano in the praise band and hanging with the youth group.

So what’s your take away? It’s certainly important for nonprofits to focus on what donors give, but it’s also essential to understand how and why they offer support.

For starters, they’ll get to know their donors better. And, according to the Bank of America study, they may raise more money.

> Matt Beem Bio