#106 Sybil Speaks: Why People Give

Dec 06, 2022


Sybil kicks off this month with her own advice first on how to be clear about why you want to give so that you can be more effective and not leave money on the table or ultimately get frustrated with the results of your giving strategy. She walks you through various reasons why she sees a person wanting to give, which allows you to figure out how you fit in these various motivations. Sybil then helps you decide how you may want to approach your giving strategy, as either a sustainer, campaigner, or launcher donor.   


Episode Highlights:

  • Explanation of the types of motivations a donor has to ultimately give in support of a cause they care about.
  • The three types of donors?
  • Why it's important to do the work first to figure out your deep motivation for giving and then how you want to approach the nonprofits you care about supporting. 


Sybil Ackerman-Munson Bio:

With over 20 years of experience as a nonprofit professional and foundation advisor, I work with philanthropic institutions and foundations interested in successful, high-impact grant making, so you can make a true and lasting positive contribution to the world on your terms.


If you enjoyed this episode, listen to these as well:

#25 Sybil Speaks: Get to the Heart of the Matter and Figure Out the Kind of Funder You Want to Be

#36 Sybil Speaks: Three Things You Can Do Now to Create a Legacy That Lasts

#34 Sybil Speaks: Reach Your Best Fundraising Potential


Crack the Code: Sybil’s Successful Guide to Philanthropy

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In this new course, you’ll gain access to beautifully animated and filmed engaging videos, and many more! 



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Send in your inquiries through her website www.doyourgood.com, or you can email her directly at [email protected]!

Full Transcript

Hello everyone, welcome to my Sybil Speaks episode for the month of December. 

This December I’m going to be focusing on why people give and the psychology of that, and the reason I'm doing that is that I feel like December is the giving season. It's the holiday season. It's also the end of the year, so a lot of people are doing their donations.

And I assumed you, as a listener to my podcast, wanted to be an effective giver. You'd want to hear about this. So, in this episode, I'm going to talk to you about two key things. 

One is the primary motivation that I see behind people who decide to donate money to worthy causes. And then I'll talk about the three types of givers that I see out there, and I'll talk about these things specifically to you the donor who wants to make a difference. I'm going to challenge you to think about who you may be and how you may fit into these categories. The reason it's so important to think carefully about how you fit into these categories? We'll connect to how you present yourself in the world so that nonprofits know how to pitch you for money and save them time and money. And it keeps you from wasting valuable time and money, because if you're clear on the kind of giver you are, then you'll be much more streamlined in the types of people who approach you for money, so you don't have to waste your time. All right let's get it. 

First, let's talk about the core motivations that I see people in the donor space focusing on that lead them to decide to give money away. There are two different kinds of donors in this space in terms of core motivation. I want you to think about where you land in this one, you might be motivated to give for personal reasons. Or two, you might be motivated to give because you believe very strongly in a cause generally, and it may not have anything to do with the personal experience you had but rather that you just care so much about this cause generally. 

So, on the personal side, there are three areas where I see people decide to give. They are motivated. One is that they've personally gone through significant trauma in their life or that a family member or a friend has. And a nonprofit has personally assisted them in overcoming that trauma. You've seen that happen, and then you go, “Oh, my goodness, the nonprofits working in this area where we've emerged from this trauma. They've been so amazing. Even though I'm no longer in trauma, I want to continue donating to those organizations.”

So, do you want to contribute to that, that's an important place to be, and I can talk to you more in the second part of this conversation, but I wonder where that might lead you in terms of the type of giver you are? But if you're a trauma-based giver, then that's coming from a personal place. 

Another personal source of information is if you are in love with a specific place. A location gives you a lot of motivation to protect that place, support the community in that place, or be a leader in that place.

So, think a lot about that. Is there a place, a location, or geography that you just really, really love and that's what you want to give back to? That means you're giving from a personal place. 

Or the third kind of personal reason to give is your legacy. So, you may not be giving a lot in your lifetime, but in your will, you definitely want to give back, and so it's really about leaving a legacy for you, your children, and the future. And that's usually a personal reason to just sort of go on living even after you've moved on to other things, those are the three personal reasons I see donors choose to give.

The second whole category is a cause-driven giver. So, these are donors that I've worked with. You never know, they might have some personal reasons to give, such as a traumatic event in their life. Or there's a place they love, or they want to leave a legacy. But that's not the driving reason why they're giving what they're giving. They are giving back because they are concerned about larger global issues such as climate change, homelessness, food insecurity, and education issues—you name it. It's a bigger issue. And they see that they want to give their money to, like, move an issue where there's something standing in the way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example, or multiple things standing in the way of effectively doing that. Or some policies or practices are standing in the way of really housing people who are currently houseless and so what they want to do is fund the issue so that those barriers are removed, more people are housed, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. You name the issue, so it's much more case driven. 

So, what kind of donor are you? Are you somebody who comes at this part of your giving strategy from a personal place, through trauma, or through a location that you love? Or because of the legacy, do you want to leave? Or are you more cause-driven, where you care very much about a particular issue that you feel needs changing to make things work well in the world? 

OK, so the reason I want you to think about this is that there is the next stage of thinking about giving and why you might want to give, and your motivation to give is, in my experience, your motivation to give folks are driven to give for these personal or cause-based reasons, and then they approach they’re giving either as a sustainer giver, a campaigner, or a launcher. 

So, I want you to think a lot about whether you are a sustainer, campaigner, or launcher donor. Let's talk about this a little bit more. 

If you're a sustainer donor, you want to give to an organization year after year, and you care a lot about the organization, which does sort of everything that you care about. In my mind, what I usually see are donors who are motivated from a personal place, like you've undergone trauma and loved the nonprofits that helped you or your family members or your friends get through that trauma, and you're supporting that nonprofit now financially. Or there's a place you love, or you want to leave a legacy there. These kinds of things are conducive to donor mythology, which is, you want to give year after year. You don't want to ask a lot of questions about where the organization is going because you believe that everything they're doing and how they prioritize their work is linked to who you are and how you care about the world. 

And this is the same thing as leaving a legacy in your will. You're going to want to fund an organization that does this. You'll be gone once they get the money. You're not going to want to ask them questions. And, while it may be a larger single donation after you're gone, it's still the same idea that you're supporting the group year after year, and you're not going to get into the details of everything they decide to do. So, you're more of a sustained donor. If you're approaching, it’s from a personal place.

However, if you're more cause-driven, whereas you may have had a personal reason to get involved in the beginning, you now care about issues such as homelessness, education, food insecurity, climate change, and so on. Then you need to think a lot about what that means for you as a donor. Because if you're cause-driven, you probably see some things standing in the way of the issue you care about the way to success.

So, in contrast to your situation, if there is a personal donor whom I saw a nonprofit help get through the trauma they went through, that wall, that challenge, and the nonprofits moving forward in that direction, a cause-driven mentality that the wall you're trying to break down is still there to get through to success. So, you are more of a "campaigner" or "launcher donor campaign," donors or donors who focus on an issue and want to remove the barriers to success, and they want to fund nonprofits that are attempting to remove those barriers. 

If that's the kind of person you are, campaign or donor. Do you want to do that? You want to be very clear with the nonprofits that you want to fund project work that's focused on the particular barrier you want to remove to get to success. I'll give you examples in a second but let me tell you about them. We'll start with a launcher and then move on to real-world examples of what. Campaigners and larger donors do. 

A launcher donor is similar to a campaigner donor in that it considers a cause that you would consider as a donor. A cause, and you say there's a major barrier in the way. You go the way, but you take it one step further. There’s a major barrier in the way. And there's no nonprofit. Or there's a big gap and nobody is addressing that barrier that I believe needs to be knocked down for success to be achieved. That means you're a lawn chair funder because you're trying to fill a gap, and you're talking with the nonprofits about finding something that doesn't exist yet to be able to remove the barrier. 

Let's use an example. It's for campaigners, funders, and launcher funders, so you can understand this a little bit more and see if you may fit into these categories. 

So, for example, if you're a campaigner and funder who cares about climate change, you're interested in greenhouse gas emissions getting reduced. You live in a particular location where a bunch of folks are working with the automobile industry to incentivize electric vehicles. However, there are not enough charging stations out there for electric vehicles to be a viable alternative to gas-powered vehicles.

Cars are the impediment; charging stations are the roadblock. So, what you want to do as a funder is talk to the nonprofits that are working on supporting and increasing charging stations in the area and give them grants specifically to help them succeed in that work. So, you wouldn't give them year-by-year sustaining funding. Instead, you would fund them for as long as it took for them to create and support a network of charging stations. 

Launcher funders have a cause-driven mentality, similar to campaigner funders. But you, if you're a launcher funder, really care about finding the gaps and filling those gaps. So, let's just look at an on-the-ground example. 

Assume you are interested in land conservation and have been funding projects. Land Trust is a truly communitarian organization. Land conservation and maybe sustainable agriculture—that kind of thing—but you notice that there's a key location that has not been developed at all but is crucial for both sustainable agriculture and possibly fish recovery. Salmon recovery. But no one owns it yet. It’s similar to this, no man land and you're getting worried, and so that's a gap. There's no nonprofit, and there's no land trust there yet. And so, what you're doing as a launcher funder is you're working with nonprofits that are also telling you this is a big gap, a big problem, and you help them start a new nonprofit from scratch.

And in that case, if that's the kind of thing you like—starting things from scratch and being there at the beginning with nonprofits—that means you're more of a launcher funder trying to accomplish a particular thing that you think is important; in the case of this example, it's land conservation and sustainable agriculture in your community, but it can be anything. 

OK, so let's recap this, and I want you to think hard about what kind of fundraiser you are. 

So, the core motivations are either personal or cause-driven. If your cause-driven approach to GG is personal, you are probably more of a sustainer type of funder. If your core motivation is more cause-driven, that likely makes you a campaigner or launcher funder, and you may be saying to me, "Now, Sybil, I know what I am. I've done this. I've been listening to you, but why does that matter?”

 So, it matters. I think I've said this before too. Is it important because a non-profit must know how to approach you and you must know how to approach a non-profit? If you are a sustainer donor because you have had trauma, a non-profit has helped you through to the other side of this trauma. Let's say you had issues with Alcoholism and this nonprofit greatly aided you in overcoming that challenge, whether it was a mental health challenge or food insecurity at a particular point in your life or house. If you have a disability and want to give back in that area, it is critical that you communicate that to the nonprofit. 

You think that the nonprofit is doing everything. Everything about it is good, and you just want to stay in touch with them about the organization in general, but you won’t. You know you don't have a specific cause in mind; it's just them helping. You and others get through the trauma, so that's an example. 

The same goes for a place. If you love a place and want to keep funding local land trusts or organizations that are working in those areas year after year because they're doing it and helping that place, be beautiful and amazing. Then you just do that every year, and so then the nonprofits will know that too. They'll realize they can just keep sending you their general materials, and they don't have to stress too much about telling you about any specific campaigns. I mean, they might want to tell you generally, but they're not going to have to go out of their way. 

Anyway, so that's great, and you can keep going your merry way. They'll go their merry way, and you can go and be part of their volunteer activities. And you're going to have a lot of fun there. 

But if you're interested in being a cause-driven funder and if you identify with what I talked about there, where you might be a campaigner or launcher, you want to approach the nonprofits very differently. You want to state it very clearly. Tell them this is the cause I care about. This is the barrier that I feel needs to be crossed. moved and also listened to them, and that's not because the nonprofits themselves will tell you if you go to them. You say I want to know that I'm a cause-driven funder. I'm a campaigner, and I want to know from you: what's the big barrier that needs to be removed? And I want to fund that. That's the thing that's going to get me excited about what I am doing with you. They love to volunteer that as well. They'll also tell you about the campaigns they've seen. So, this wonderful conversation begins. 

If you don't tell them that you're a campaigner and funder and that you're interested in cause-driven funding and that kind of thing, they might just sit with you and tell you about every single thing they do, and you might start getting super bored and unexcited when the reality is that they might be doing something that you care out. 

Same thing with the launcher if there is one. The launcher funder: If you're a launcher funder and you love sort of starting things from scratch, being like a venture capitalist of the underworld, tell the non-profits that, and they could come up with something if you don't already have an idea in mind. 

A little friendly reminder. There is one, and I have a whole course on being in a financial bubble. You want to be careful. Check out my website to check out that course because you don't want to be in a financial bubble. 

One challenge that I caution you on, especially if you're a cause-driven funder, is that you probably have an idea of the barrier that needs to be removed but be sure to me mention it in your conversations with the nonprofits. When you talk to them about this barrier, you explain that it needs to be removed and that there's this cause that you care about. We give them space to tell you whether they don't think you're correct about the actual barrier. Maybe there's something else. There is a way for the solution to present itself. Make sure you are open to the non-profit telling you what a good solution is and listen to them as well. 

And if you're worried about whether you're in a financial bubble and whether you can't actually do this appropriately, definitely check out my course. There are some tips and tricks there too. that you can. You can learn more about it there, but the focus of this conversation is to help you connect with the kind of you. 

All right, well, I hope this was great food for thought. I have a lot more information about this on my website. If you want to check it out, please stay and listen to my upcoming podcast this month, all about it in general, why do people give? What are the motivations behind all of that? And I hope you use some of my advice. And take my words here today to heart and consider how you can be the most effective giver possible in this critical time when there are so many great nonprofits doing good work out there, until next time. Do your good and be well.