II: The Donor
In "On Motivation
we looked at what it is that motivates us to be effective development
professionals. It is not our basic needs that motivate us in our work;
it is our pursuit of self-actualization. Psychologist Abraham Maslow defines
self-actualization as our desire for self-fulfillment, to become everything
we are capable of becoming.
In that respect our
donors are like us. In fact, when we consider people who can and do make
major gifts that have a significant impact on our missions, we probably
have in mind people who are more self-actualized than we are.
Why is that? Because
typically, as income or wealth increases, people become less motivated
by need and more motivated by intangible desires. They are motivated by
the opportunity for growth, not by deficiency. As Maslow observed, "They
attempt to grow to perfection and to develop more and more fully in their
own style. For them motivation is just character growth, character expression,
maturation, and development."
Who are these people?
Any time we gather
a group together to help us identify major gift prospects, the chief criterion
is wealth. That is a given; people cannot give what they do not have.
However, we all know that wealth is not an indicator of generosity. Furthermore,
many people can make truly generous commitments from their assets through
planned gifts. These are people who may very well not exhibit any visible
evidence of wealth.
We need to look for
people among our pool of major and planned gift prospects who display
characteristics of self-actualization. Maslow drew these conclusions about
defining characteristics from depth research of mentally healthy subjects.
Obviously, these characteristics of our major gift prospects can only
be observed by being in relationship with them. Hopefully, some of those
relationships are already established with our volunteers or us and we
need to be keen listeners and observers. If we do not have those relationships,
strategies can be created to develop them.
First of all, these
people were loved as children. They grew up feeling secure, nurtured and
encouraged to explore their potential. They learned to love others rather
than needing to be loved. They talk fondly about their parents and vividly
about their experiences of growing up. They accept themselves and their
idiosyncratic natures regardless of shortcomings and without wishing to
be something else or envying of someone else.
They learned to appreciate
the world. They delight in simple pleasures, in natural beauty, in the
experiences of daily living. They live in the present moment and enjoy
the journey as well as the destination. They have healthy appetites for
all aspects of life and take genuine enjoyment in satisfying their basic
needs. I remember the remark by a consultant several years about some
of our major donors, "Those people eat like horses!" It was
true. They were not particularly overweight; they simply had a gusto for
life including good food.
are creative people, not necessarily expressed in the fine arts. They
find creative solutions to problems; they find opportunity where others
see only obstacles. They turn routine and mundane tasks into playful games.
Work is embraced as pleasure rather than a duty or means to an end. However,
they are not workaholics, i.e., they are not addicted to work.
They are in stable
marriages and find their spouses as attractive and interesting today as
they did 30 or 40 years ago. They have a special love for children
their own as well as children in general.
are highly ethical. They are guided by principles of their own determination.
They have high moral values and standards for themselves, yet they are
forgiving of others shortcomings. They respect other people for
whom they are as individuals regardless of power, position, political
ideology, education or ethnicity.
Their circle of friends
is small, but those relationships are deeply developed. They are private
people who enjoy solitude and being with themselves.
These people are
highly self-governed and self-directed. As Maslow found, "They have
become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people,
or even of their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity,
the prestige, and the love...have become less important than self-development
and inner growth."
They are deeply grateful
for their good fortune and often express how blessed they are. They have
a well developed spirituality, although they may not be members of a particular
Now, think about
some of the people you know who are like this. We sometimes think of them
as characters because they are idiosyncratic. They feel free to
express themselves. They are energetic and positive. They make things
happen rather than waiting for things to happen. Yet, they are sensitive
to other people. They feel deeply about issues that are important to them
personally and also about issues of importance to all of humankind.
How are we to understand
Keep in mind that
the basic needs of these people have already been satisfied, i.e., their
physiologic needs as well as their needs for safety, love and esteem.
Money is not the means to satisfy their lower needs or an end in itself;
they have come to realize that it can be the means to achieve their higher
needs. They may certainly enjoy the luxuries, experiences and access that
money can buy, but they are not obsessed by the need to possess or to
flaunt their wealth.
Humans are wanting
animals. We are not satisfied for very long. However, once our basic needs
are met, it is more difficult to discern what our other or higher needs
are. Self-actualized people constantly seek for that which will fulfill
them, meaning that which will enable them to achieve their potential.
As Maslow writes, "To know what one really wants is a considerable
people place a greater value on the satisfaction of their higher needs.
They will make tremendous sacrifices to gratify those needs even to the
point of depriving their lower needs. They can be patient to achieve what
they want, delay gratification, and remain dedicated to longterm objectives.
They become strongly
focused on issues or problems outside of themselves. They devote their
energies to a mission they have taken on with a passion and dedication
that is inspirational. They may feel that it is their civic duty and not
necessarily a task they would choose for themselves. I recall a man who
from his bed in the hospital shortly after cardiac bypass surgery was
on the telephone coordinating construction of a Habitat for Humanity project.
It was amazing to me to see him so unconcerned about his own discomfort
Like this man, Maslow
found that "self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification,
sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship
and connection, as if all people were members of a single family."
How can we motivate
these people to support our missions?
theory of motivation, its important that we think of these people
as whole individuals instead of separate parts. We need to consider their
entire lives: from childhood to the present, their work and personal endeavors,
the relationship with their families and the pursuit of their personal
interests, their values and achievements, their dreams and fears.
Their drives and
desires are needs of the whole person. These drives are overlapping, not
mutually exclusive. Furthermore, they are complex and change over time.
Thats why establishing ongoing relationships is so important to
our success. Its not enough to operate on the basis of a snapshot
of a particular individual, we must continually strive to know the person
on an intimate level. That takes time and is founded on trust.
These people are
actively engaged with the world. Even if they are not physically active
any longer, they remain intellectually and emotionally involved. We need
to capitalize on their natural curiosity and their drive to understand
the world by seeking their advice in a genuine way and gathering their
ideas about how to address the problems and challenges our organizations
face. They dont want pat answers or facile solutions to serious
issues. They need to know that we want their best thinking; we need their
creativity. We want the best of them.
are mission-driven. They thrive on being a part of something significant.
They want to have an impact, not in a self-centered way but in the context
of service to humankind. They want to know what our organizations are
all about and what it is we are trying to achieve. Are we convicted of
our purpose and demonstrably making sacrifices? Or are we comfortable
or self-serving? Their time is their most precious resource and they want
to use it where it can make a difference not a modest improvement but
a quantum leap.
These people are
not threatened by the unknown or ambiguity. We do not have to have all
the answers or the course fully marked out for them. They want to analyze
information, explore options, and weigh consequences. We have to be open
to new perspectives and radical alternatives that may upset our equilibrium
and our preconceived notions. They define the world in terms of abundance
and not deficiency. That attitude reveals itself in a capacity for experimentation
and risk, for seizing opportunity, and for creating something where nothing
As Maslow wrote,
self-actualizers "are ordinarily concerned with basic issues and
external questions of the type that we have learned to call philosophical
or ethical. Such people live customarily in the widest possible frame
of reference. They seem never to get so close to the trees that they fail
to see the forest. They work within a framework of values that are broad
and not petty, universal and not local, and in terms of a century rather
than the moment."
demand the best of us. They hold us to high ideals. They challenge us
and the status quo. They require us to be honest and open.
When we think of
our major donor prospects in this way, we should be excited about the
possibilities that lay before us (and them) and about the richness of
the experience. We will be better for it. It will take us further down
the road on our own journey toward self-actualization. Enjoy, the best
is yet to come if we grasp the opportunity!
Maslow, A., The
Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Viking Press, New York, 1971.
Maslow, A., Motivation
and Personality, Harper, New York, 1954.
Maslow, A., Toward
a Psychology of Being, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1968.
Rogers, C., On
Becoming a Person, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1961.
Michael R. Maude,
Partners In Philanthropy