What on earth is 3D Philanthropy?

Despite its title, 3D Philanthropy isn't the latest film to jump on the 3D bandwagon, coming soon to a theatre near you. But there are three dimensions involved: dimensions which are critical for successful fundraisers to understand.

Those three dimensions inspired a book by Good Works partner Fraser Green: 3D Philanthropy:  Make Your Donors Love You By Connecting With Their Minds, Hearts and Souls.

When I asked Fraser why he had written this book he replied, "The first reason was that I wanted fundraisers to hear the complete voices of their donors. One of the things I've been fortunate to do is to listen to donors, especially legacy donors, in focus groups. When we've asked people why they give, why they care, they were very articulate. I don't think most fundraisers get the opportunity to hear their full story.Fraser Green photo

"Secondly, when I run into fundraisers and ask how it's going, I get this language of dysfunction. There is this frantic frenzy of activity that has taken the joy out of our work. The original motivation for the book was to rekindle our joy for the good work that we do."

So why do you think fundraisers need to read this book?

"Many fundraisers don't really have the opportunity for profound conversations with donors. Maybe it's not knowing how to ask the right penetrating questions. We ask them about how they'd like to give and about recognition. The important questions always seem to start with ‘why.' I think this book tries to answer a lot of ‘why.'

"One of my early mentors and heroes was Tommy Douglas. He always used to say, ‘We are all born with two ears and one mouth.' The implication is that we should spend more time listening.

"In today's fundraising environment, there is pressure for frenetic activity. It makes it difficult for fundraisers to pause and reflect and do deep listening, and maybe have a new insight or two about how their donors come at this."

What is the premise of the book?

"The first one, as simple as this sounds, is that donors are just human beings.

"The second is that humans live their lives varying between their intellectual, emotional and spiritual states. If the people we are trying to connect with are weaving between those states, as fundraisers we need to be aware of and attuned to what those states are, so that we can fully connect with those donors.

"The first step is to realize is that the intellectual state, from a giving point of view, is the weakest of the three, and the spiritual is the strongest. If two fundraisers compete with two different appeals, one intellectual and one spiritual, the spiritual one is almost always going to get the money.

"The heart trumps the head and the soul trumps the heart. There is a hierarchy. A really great appeal for funds consists of all three.

"The head, or prefrontal cortex region of the brain, is the thinking part, the rational part. That's the part that wants to know, ‘How long have you been a charity? What is your cost per dollar raised? Who is on your board?' These facts are often important in the gift decision. They often come at the end of the process."

How do those dimensions interact?

"What I've observed is that often there is a spiritual or emotional impulse to give, and the donor will then switch to the intellectual. ‘Let's check some facts. Is this charity credible?' They do that after they have the impulse to give, which probably came from the heart. It reinforces the idea that in a perfect world you speak to all three dimensions.

"Pretty much every fundraiser I have ever met speaks to the head. We all do it. The problem is that some of us do it too much. We don't make enough investment in the other two dimensions.  Our research has shown us that our donors are very aware that they have both emotional and spiritual components. It has suggested to me that donors are much more attuned to this than the people asking them for money.

"In an online panel of 700 donors, 86% agreed with the statement, ‘My charitable giving is an extension of my spiritual beliefs.' Almost nine in ten donors are aware that their giving is an extension of their spiritual selves, yet how many fundraisers talk to their donors at a spiritual level?

"In part, what this book is trying to do is to help fundraisers catch up to where their donors are."

Why do you think there is a disconnect?

"A lot of it is culture. Men are raised not to talk about their feelings. As a new profession we have placed such emphasis on analysis and strategy and moves management that we've lost the emphasis on the fact that it feels good to help someone else. It's a good thing, a noble thing. I like who I see in the mirror when I do things like this.

"Maybe it's a pendulum thing. As a new profession, our pendulum has swung too far to the quantitative side. This book is trying to make it swing back a little to the human side.

"I think the reason we spend so much time there as fundraisers is that it's safe. I think that any time we go to emotional or spiritual sides of ourselves we are taking risks. And risks are scary. Even though you're not guaranteed the result you want, when you do get it, it's so splendid that it's worth the risk."

This is the first in a series of three articles about 3D Philanthropy. The next article will focus on the second element: the heart.


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