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Donor Participation Project Resources

From Disposable Income to Donating Wealth: The Importance of Setting

The setting in which a donor considers making a gift has a significant impact on their generosity, according to neuroscientist and fundraising expert Dr. Russell James.

In a Donor Participation Project session, Dr. James explained how nonprofits can use setting to encourage donors to give from their wealth rather than just disposable income. Dr. James said the abundance or scarcity of a donor’s setting influences how much they donate.

An opulent gala or donor reception puts donors in an “abundance mindset” where they feel more inclined to give larger gifts. In contrast, an event highlighting the organization’s frugality or limited resources puts donors in a “scarcity mindset” and makes them less generous.

Orchestrate an abundant atmosphere.

The gift type a nonprofit requests also matters. Asking for and sharing stories of donors giving non-cash assets like stocks or real estate introduces the idea of donating wealth. Once donors consider their wealth as “donation relevant,” Dr. James has found their giving dramatically increases, both immediately and for years to come.

On average, donors who include a charity in their estate plan increase their annual giving by 78% the following year, and giving remains higher for 8 years after that.

While many fundraisers focus on raising cash donations from a donor’s disposable income, the setting of encounters with donors and the types of gifts requested significantly impact the potential lifetime value of supporters.

By sharing stories of donors giving from their wealth and creating an abundant atmosphere at events, nonprofits can elevate donors from considering only disposable income to seeing their wealth as donation relevant.

The result is transformational gifts that fuel greater mission impact.

View the complete recording of this Donor Participation Project session with Dr. Russell James in our Resource Library.

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