“It’s a two-way street to build this happiness. I give to the hospital so that the patients and people who work there can be happy, too. We are helping each other. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. What other platform that I can use gives so much back in return? All I gave was my money. And guess what I’m getting back: A lot of love and happiness.”


Philanthropy today is not about giving; it’s about investing. And the return on investment that donors expect is, perhaps, a surprising one. They give based on how they expect it will make them feel.

We had the honor of speaking with a philanthropist and volunteer who is privileged to be able to give one hundred percent of her earnings to the children’s hospital in her community. A quote from her interview transcript appears above. Did you notice that she values love and happiness more highly than money? This donor’s perspective perfectly captures the importance of providing a meaningful return on philanthropic investment (ROPI). While the organization was keen to thank her for all she’d done for them, all she wanted to do was thank them for giving her the opportunity for so much happiness.

We can learn several important lessons from this donor’s story. First, clinicians or subject matter experts who worry that by making philanthropic referrals they are prying money from the reluctant or “begging” for funds from the disinterested, need not worry! As this donor demonstrates, giving is a joyful, genuine act.

Reflect and Act:
What donor stories can you share with your clinician partners or subject matter experts that convey the joy your donors experience when giving?


Next, for those with high net-worth, there are few ways in which they can invest their money that results in so meaningful a return. As this donor says, what other platform gives her so much back? When we share the impact of philanthropy, we can give donors joy that they can experience in no other way.

Reflect and Act:
Consider what is meaningful to your own donors. How can you convey impact to them, based on their personal stories?


Finally, happiness isn’t the only thing this donor received in return for her giving. She also perceives that she receives “a lot of love.” This organization has done a fabulous job of ensuring that this donor knows she is more than just a checkbook to them. In addition to knowing the impact of their contributions, donors also need to feel that the organization values them as people. As she states, this is a “two-way street” in which both sides are valued and receive mutual benefits.

One way to help donors see that they are respected by the organization is to reach out with Touch Points—those genuine contacts with donors made simply to show that you respect and value them as a person. Something as simple as sending a birthday note, a congratulatory email, or sharing an article based on a known interest or passion, can show donors that you are thinking of them.

Reflect and Act:
As a representative of your organization, what is one way you can help donors “feel the love” and show them that you value them beyond their contribution?


Discover the ways in which a donor-centric approach to philanthropy will “build more happiness” for donors at your organization.

The Art and Science of Donor Development

Transforming Your Organization with Individual Giving