Learn From My
Experiences is a collection
of essays penned by the author Norman B. Gildin who offers
professional fundraisers, lay leaders, volunteers and the general
public his perspective and the benefit of nearly four and a half
decades raising more than $93 million for nonprofit
tackles a different fundraising topic and addresses techniques and
methodologies considered best practices in the field of
Development. There also is a special section whose focus is
possible outcomes of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on
The author hopes
that readers will learn important lessons from his decades of
experience that can be practically applied today. In his words,
“These essays are opportunities on how to best approach donors for
major gifts, conduct special events and design and establish many
programs to raise money for nonprofits.” With more than 1.6 million
nonprofits in the United States, there is something here for
This book is
meant to be an easy read. You can pick it up and read
through the book, or just glance at chapter headings in the Table
of Contents and read chapters that interest you. Simple.
This book is
intended to help not only Development professionals, but also lay
leadership, volunteers, and even the public, which are involved in
fundraising. Is it an exhaustive description of every kind of
fundraising? No, but it
does address the major categories of giving which are annual
campaigns, capital campaigns, planned giving and endowment fund
giving. Some more; some less. You be the judge.
general public will find this book fascinating because everyone has
a pet charity or project which they support or for whom they want
to raise funds. It gives the novice and, even, the veteran
fundraiser a taste of what it takes to raise money for a nonprofit
organization. Through anecdotal stories, people will be informed,
amused, surprised and taken by what it takes to support worthy
organizations whose purpose is to help the less fortunate and
vulnerable in society.
“Why Do People Give?”
What motivates you to get up in the morning? Your job? Family
responsibilities? A game of golf or tennis? Everyone has something
that motivates them to do what they do. This holds true just as
well for philanthropy. People are motivated to give for a reason.
They may not admit to it. But they are.
Usually when a donor connects with the Mission of a nonprofit,
that’s all it takes to motivate him/her to give. You’ll hear
someone say that it’s their “pet project” and this is because they
feel close to the organization or identify with its services, staff
or clients. Perhaps there is a history that connected them or their
In the Mishnah Torah,
under laws of charity, the author Maimonides identified eight
levels of charity. Each step is higher than the next.
The highest level, above which there is no greater, is
to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or
entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for
him, in order to strengthen his hand so that he will not need to be
dependent upon others . . . Perhaps, Maimonides
affirmed these levels because everyone has a different ability to
give. I assert everyone has a different reason why they
So, what motivates a person to give in one level versus another?
Everyone is different and yet giving charity is a commonality we
all share, but for different reasons.
Studies have been done to learn why people give. For the
fundraiser, understanding this can mean the difference between
success and failure. If you figure out what motivates a donor to
give, half the battle is won. This is important not just because
it helps the fundraiser in his or her quest, but it hopefully helps
achieve the philanthropic needs of the donor.
So why do people give? Let me suggest there are many reasons.
The following represent only some:
(1) Here’s a surprise.
Half of the people give to a charity for one reason and one reason
alone – they were asked. So, this teachable moment is a simple
lesson. You have a 50% chance for success simply by asking. The
donor may or may not have a special motivation.
(2 Some folks
have an inherent religious belief learned when they were young.
There are those who believe in tithing – giving a tenth of their
earnings, also called “Ma’aser,” (Hebrew) to charity. Others give
to mark a yahrzeit (anniversary of the death of a Loved One) or for
Yizkor (Hebrew prayer recited on designated Jewish Holidays), prior
to a Jewish Holiday, to commemorate a happy occasion or sometimes a
(3 This may
surprise you too. Some persons contribute as a means to
self-preservation. How, you may ask? For the answer, go no further
than reading the mantras of several nonprofits. For instance, the
American Cancer Society states: “We want to wipe out cancer in your
lifetime.” When AIDS was at its peak, the mantra was: “Unless a
cure is found for this killer disease, millions of people may die.”
Some people feel that by giving to a certain cause, they may avoid
the nasty tentacles of the disease.
(4 No surprise
with this reason – guilt. This occurs when people feel they will
neglect or have neglected the needs of others. Commercials that
portray neglected animals, the homeless or wounded veterans are
prime examples of hammering home guilt.
(5 Tax benefits
are a sure shot method of inducing donations. Deductions are not
what they used to be and who knows what laws Congress may add, yet
tax advantages are still a big seller. This is especially true with
planned gifts such as charitable trusts and gift
graduates often become indebted to their alma mater, families
benefit by the admission of a loved one into a nursing home and
congregants benefit from membership in a synagogue. What these have
in common is a moral
obligation to support the institution that has done good in their
recognition is a motivator for some. It can come in the form of an
award presented at an event, a plaque on a wall, an honor roll or
even a listing in an annual report or newsletter. To some degree,
this also plays to the ego of the philanthropist.
pressure works well as a motivator for some folks. During a
solicitation it often helps to have present a family member, a
friend or a business associate who the donor respects. That kind of
leverage can go a long way.
probably the most important reason of all: making a difference. Many
individuals want to know that they are making a difference in the
lives of those less fortunate. Philanthropists such as Bill and
Melinda Gates, who give billions away to the African continent for
vaccines, AIDS support and the like, genuinely feel they are making
a difference in millions of lives. And they do.
There may be other reasons why people give to charitable causes,
but these are at the top of my list. So, when you see others giving
to their favorite nonprofit, this will give you insight into their
So, I ask you: why do you give?