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Downes Murray International News

The 'Seven Faces' of philanthropy

In creating hundreds, if not thousands, of donor communication pieces, I have found that there are seven fundamental rules for amazing donor communications:

Rule 1 – Look at donor communications as a system and a process.
Communitarians, devout, investors, socialites, repayers, altruists and dynasts.
According to File, ‘each of these seven faces’ represents a characteristic and distinctive way a donor group approaches philanthropy, a set of typical attitudes and beliefs, range of consideration, a process of evaluation and a style of involvement with nonprofits’.

The Seven Faces segmentation is revealing because one set of motivations tends to dominate people’s decisions, even though close questioning will reveal that any individual donor will also feel additional motivations, she said.

Because seven categories provide a base for major donor behaviour, the Seven Faces framework can be used to expand a fundraiser’s perspective when it comes to his profession. Naturally the ‘faces’ approach has limits and constraints. ‘Motivational segmentation methodologies such as these simplify human motivations to some degree in order to provide a useful and easily applied framework,’ she said.

File’s Seven Faces are:

The Communitarians: Doing good makes sense.
Communitarians, the largest segment at 26.3%, give because it makes good sense to do so. Communitarians are often local business owners who believe their participation in a local nonprofit can be good for business. Communitarians believe active philanthropy makes good sense because it helps communities prosper by supporting local charities.

The Devout: Doing good is God’s will.
Religious reasons prompt the devout to support nonprofits. Often the devout members of a local church, which is part of a regional or national religious group, give mostly (96,4%) to a religious institution. The devout make up the second largest group (20,9%) of major donors.

The Investor: Doing good is good business.
Investors are affluent individual donors who give with one eye on the nonprofit cause and one eye on personal tax and estate consequences. Investors regulate their giving to take advantage of tax and estate benefits. To achieve their financial and philanthropic interests, investors donate to a wide range of nonprofits. Investors are the most likely – 22,5% – to support umbrella nonprofits such as community foundations. About 15,3% of major donors are investors.

The Socialite: Doing good is fun.
Socialites are drawn to social functions benefitting nonprofits because they feel it’s an opportunity to make a better world and have a good time doing it. Usually members of a local social network, these people use this method to select nonprofits to support.

They seek opportunities to host events benefitting nonprofits and are less interested in participating in the practical operations of the organisation. Socialites, who support the arts and education as well as religious nonprofits, make up 8,2% of major donors.

The Altruist: Doing good feels right.
Altruists are the selfless donors – the donors who give out of generosity and empathy to urgent causes. Some wish to remain anonymous. For altruists, giving is a moral imperative helping them to grow emotionally and spiritually. Altruists make giving decisions without the input of advisors and are not usually interested in active roles in the nonprofits they support. Altruists tend to focus their gifts on social causes. Nine per cent of donors are Altruists.

The Repayer: Doing good in return.
Repayers tend to have been constituents first and donors second. This is someone who feels loyalty or obligation to a nonprofit: Now it’s time for pay-back. Repayers concentrate their philanthropy on medical charities and education institutions. Repayers are 10,2% of major donors.

The Dynast: Doing good is family tradition.
Unlike other segments, dynasts typically inherit their wealth. Giving is something their family has always done and they believe they should do the same. However, younger dynasts have been significant figures in philanthropy for some time; they now comprise 8,3% of major donors.

With acknowledgement to The NonProfit Times October 1997.

This article first appeared in Fundraising Forum: Issue 42, December 1997.

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