Donors who give in ways that are deeply meaningful to them are making contributions based on a sense of shared ownership in the success of a project, initiative, or program.

This sense of shared ownership arises when a donor’s philanthropy and personal experiences meet. Life-changing experiences fuel meaningful philanthropy and often inform a donor’s desire to express gratitude. A donor we interviewed shared:

You say thank you through your philanthropy, and you say it by getting involved.

When asked what involvement looked like to him, a donor responded:

It’s more of an idea of just participating and watching what happens. My wife and I both have experience being on very significant and important boards in other areas, so we might be able to provide some help in some way. We don’t want control over anything, but we want to see if we could provide some benefit, see how things are being run, and most of all, see how the hospital is helping people.

Involving donors allows them to be champions for your cause. Another donor shared:

When I give, I give what I can financially, but I also like to have some involvement on the personal side. That allows me to be a better ambassador for the program, and hopefully a better supporter of the program in the long run.

It’s not uncommon for a donor to become so passionate about a cause that he or she invites friends and family to contribute. But some donors feel uncomfortable being asked to do this. Another donor explained:

When I make a contribution, one of the biggest turn-offs for me is being asked to leverage my connections and go out and raise money through my connections.

In this particular donor’s case, he went on to raise more than a million dollars through his connections, but only when his sense of ownership was so deep that it felt natural to do so.

Every situation is different, and I don’t think they should be generalized. The biggest thing to me is, don’t take people for granted. Don’t assume they can do X or Y. It doesn’t feel good. But to be offered an opportunity to be involved, that is so important.


Ask and Act:

  • What opportunities does your organization have to involve a donor beyond his or her financial contribution?
  • How might you discover ways in which a donor wishes to become involved?
  • How will you determine the appropriate time to invite a donor to become involved?