Socratic fundraising setting: Is this the land of wealth sharing?

The “one big thing” in fundraising is always the same: Advance the donor’s hero story. That’s the right story. But for major gifts, we need one more element. We need the right setting.

Major gift setting: Is this the land of wealth sharing?

           In a story, setting matters. Setting creates expectations. It defines appropriate behaviors. Are we in a fantasy realm? Then we’re open to fantasy events. Are we in the Old West? Then we expect Old West things. The story should match the setting. A John Grisham legal thriller won’t include zombies. A Zane Grey western won’t have a magical elf. 

           In fundraising, setting matters. Typical gifts come from disposable income. They’re in the category of regular daily or weekly expenditures. This is a small reference point. This creates small comparisons and small gifts. A story in that setting will never lead to a major gift. A major gift doesn’t fit the setting. It’s like a space alien landing in a Danielle Steele romance.

           Major gifts are different. Of course, they’re larger. But they’re also different in type. Major gifts are not gifts from disposable income. Major gifts are gifts of wealth. To advance a major gift story, we need the right setting. We need to be in the right world. We need to answer the question, “Is this the land of wealth sharing?”

Read full article

DFW501c.news publishes every week.
All of our reporting takes hours of time to curate, research and report news that can impact the work you do!

Your contribution of a few dollars a month will support our reporters, expand our coverage and ensure we continue bringing you timely, relevant nonprofit news!

Support This Site

About the author

Russell James, J.D., Ph.D., CFP

After more than a quarter century spent as a planned giving fundraiser, an estate planning attorney in private practice, a major gifts fundraiser/college president, and now as a university professor researching charitable giving and fundraising, my focus is to make and share words, pictures, and discoveries that help others to encourage generosity.

My research has been cited in outlets such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Reports, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg News, ABC News, USA Today, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. My research methodologies include econometric analysis of large datasets, functional magnetic resonance imaging (neuroimaging), skin conductance response, and online and in-person experiments.

My teaching includes classroom and online graduate instruction, webinars, seminars, educational videos, and keynote presentations at national conferences for fundraisers, financial planners, and estate planners.

My publications have appeared in more than forty different academic journals including Cognitive Neuroscience, Environment & Behavior, Applied Economics, Applied Economics Letters, American Journal of Economics & Sociology, Social Indicators Research, American Review of Public Administration, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Management, Voluntas-International Journal of Voluntary & Nonprofit Organizations, Journal of Financial Counseling & Planning, Financial Services Review, Journal of Personal Finance, Journal for Financial Planning, Journal of Financial Therapy, Ageing & Society, Educational Gerontology, International Journal of Consumer Studies, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Review of Religious Research, The Geneva Papers on Risk & Insurance, Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal, and UC-Davis Law Review.